With an Erotic All-Woman ‘Last Supper,’ Ariana Grande Continues to Irreverently Riff on Renaissance Art

Some 50 women joined the singer on stage to perform "God Is a Woman" at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Ariana Grande at the MTV VMAs 2018. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for MTV.
Ariana Grande at the MTV VMAs 2018. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for MTV.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z might have taken over the Louvre, but singer Ariana Grande brought the Renaissance back to life last night with her all-woman performance inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at the MTV Video Music Awards.

In between walking the red carpet with fiance Pete Davidson and accepting an award for Best Pop Video, Grande gave a rousing performance of her song “God Is a Woman” alongside about 50 women, including Grande’s own mother, grandmother, and cousin.

Decked out in flowing robes and golden crowns, the women writhed their way into seats around the table in a fashion evocative of the Leonardo masterpiece.

The stage backdrop featured classical architecture and Renaissance-style columns, adding to the inverted triangular composition that stands for both feminine power and the holy trinity.

Leonardo’s iconic depiction of Jesus and the Apostles has, of course, long been one of the most riffed upon of all artworks. Grande’s female Last Supper is actually an updated—albeit extra-racy—version of a classic feminist trope: In 1972, Mary Beth Edelson produced her famous Some Living American Women Artists/Last Supper, with Georgia O’Keeffe as Jesus.

This isn’t the first time Grande has put her stamp on the classics. The video for “God Is a Woman,” released in late July, climaxes with Grande transforming herself into Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, humbly rendering herself as God. Earlier in the year, Grande wore a Vera Wang dress to the Met Gala that was decorated with images of Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement.

Ariana Grande. ©Patrick McMullan, Photo - Sean Zanni/PMC

Ariana Grande at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala. Photo by Sean Zanni, ©Patrick McMullan.

The “God Is a Woman” video has also proved particularly ripe for art-spotters. Observers have found art references in the video ranging from Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka to Austrian pop artist Kiki Kogelnik. A scene of Grande floating in a pool of swirling lavender was staged by LA body painter Alexa Meade, who has said she was inspired by O’Keeffe.

Probably the most out-there image from the video is of a crouched female figure with tiny men suckling at her belly. It is inspired by the “Capitoline Wolf,” the famed sculpture that stands as a symbol of Europe, depicting the she-wolf who suckled twins Romulus and Remus, the origin myth for Rome and the Roman empire.

Left: Screenshot of Ariana Grande's "God Is a Woman" (2018); right: The Capitoline She-Wolf (5th century BC) at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Left: Screenshot of Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman” (2018); right: The Capitoline She-Wolf (5th century BC) at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.


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