Invite a guest to dinner in honour of Leuven’s ‘The Last Supper’


In honour of ‘The Last Supper’ by Flemish master Dieric Bouts, M Museum is looking to bring citizens together over meals

A place at the table

Many painters have been inspired to gather the apostles around the table in an interpretation of Jesus’s final meal, but Flemish master Dieric Bouts was the first. His altarpiece “The Last Supper” is at the centre of a new exhibition in Leuven’s fully restored Sint-Pieters Church, which kicks off in March.

Leuven’s M Museum has found a creative way to announce the exhibition: It’s offering residents across Belgium the chance to register to host a guest – or several guests – for a meal. It also works in reverse; people can request to be the guest of someone who has registered as a host.

“When we think about loneliness, we often think primarily of senior citizens,” says Leuven mayor Mohamed Ridouani. “Research conducted by KU Leuven indicates, however, that no less than one in five young Flemish people regularly experience loneliness. This initiative is a beautiful, simple and urgently needed gesture in our society.”

Zet een bordje bij, or Set another place, takes place on 11 February, the 560th anniversary of the day that Bouts completed his altarpiece. “Bouts had a significant impact on Leuven; he is to Leuven what Jan van Eyck is to Ghent,” explains Denise Vandevoort, chair of M Museum and city councillor for culture and tourism. “As one of the great Flemish masters of the late middle ages, Bouts put Leuven on the art-history map. This lovely initiative was inspired by his ‘Last Supper’.”

We want them to not only discover Bouts, but – more importantly – have a lovely evening together

- Mayor Mohamed Ridouani

Bouts’s use of linear perspective in this work was revolutionary, focusing attention on the Eucharist at the centre of the tableau. And this was the specific inspiration for Zet een bordje bij, because eucharistein in Greek means “to give thanks”.

In fact, Bouts placed the biblical scene in a local and recognisable setting: Through the window, you can see Leuven’s Grote Markt. Bouts painted this scene before Da Vinci painted his famous depiction of the same story, and Bouts was the first painter ever to place all the apostles around the table.

“Zet een bordje bij is also intended to bring people together around a table,” says Ridouani. “We sincerely hope that many Leuven locals participate in this initiative, but also all Belgians. We want them to not only discover Bouts, but – more importantly – have a lovely evening together.”

Photo: Central panel of Dieric Bouts’s “The Last Supper” (cropped), 1464-1468 © - Art in Flanders, photo by Hugo Maertens