Reporting Joel Thomas
FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - The quaint Christian Arts Museum in the 3200 block of Hamilton Avenue near the Fort Worth Arts District doesn’t appear impressive when you first walk in. It small, curved white halls are lined with some display cases and shelves with various artifacts on them.
But wait until you see the museum’s masterpiece.
“The centerpiece to this place is The Last Supper by Leonardo Davinci,” said Ed Malone, the museum’s director. “It’s a wax, full life-sized Last Supper. It’s historic to Fort Worth. Its been in Fort Worth since the 1960′s.”
As visitors round a corner into the dark room, they’re greated by a display that appears part art work, part snap-shot in time. The figure of Christ is seated calmly at the middle of the supper table as apparent chaos erupts among his disciples to either side of him.
A recorded voice guides your eyes through the very life-like display.
“It is a moment of tense drama,” the recorded announcer said, describing the scene. “The very moment when Christ revealed to his closest friends one of them would betray him.”
An oil millionaire hired its creator, Katherine Stubergh, to make the display for Fort Worth in the ’60s.
She was an 80-year old woman who’s family had made wax figures in Europe for 400 years.
The display was so large she had to work on the figures under an awning behind her studio for 18 months.
“And she hand sewed all the hair and moustaches onto the figures and she used glass eyes,” Malone said. “So that makes them more vibrant whenever you see them.”
After going in and out of storage for many years, the display was given a permanent home by a non-denominational group which built the museum on property donated by a church.
The presentation’s recording guides viewers disciple by disciple across the scene.
“The dark haired figure tightly clutching the money bag in his left hand is Judus Iscariot,” the announcer says as he reaches the fourth disciple from the left.
Every detail of the original painting is reproduced here. Like the spilled salt in front of Judus.
“Whenever Jesus announced someone was going to betray him he was very nervous and he knocked the salt shaker over,” Malone said.
Davinci inserted himself into the artwork as Thadeus.
And you’ll notice Jesus is blonde.
Of the six displays like this, Stubergh made three featured Jesus with dark hair, three with blonde hair.
“She felt like that gave more of a divine appearance to Jesus,” Malone said of the blond hair.
Whether seen as art or spiritual inspiration, visitors are almost always moved by the work.
“Most of the time they’re kind of awed when they walk around the corner and see all of them at the table,” Malone said. “It grows on you as you sit there and hear the presentation about the Last Supper, it really grows on you. And you begin to see these people come to life.”
At one point, the viewer’s attention is called to Jesus’ hands.
“Jesus takes the bread, blesses it and breaks it,” the announcer says. “You’ll see it at the tip of his left hand.”
“Its kind of one of those things you go in there and you see that and you go, ‘Whoa, this is really worthwhile,” Malone said.
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