LAFAYETTE, La. – The iconic makers of Tabasco recently discovered a painting of The Last Supper which features a bottle of its original Louisiana hot sauce hanging on the walls of a church near Lafeyette, Louisiana.
The Last Supper typically depicts Jesus Christ eating with his 12 apostles and is a common scene in the Christian religion with the most famous version painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
Tabasco, the globally famous Louisiana pepper sauce known by its red and green branding, sits in front of one of the disciples in the St. Joseph Catholic Church painting.
The church’s pastor, Nicholas DuPré, said he heard rumors about the bottle when he arrived at St. Joseph in Parks, Louisiana, in 2019 from the previous pastor.
“He was like, ‘Did you find that Tabasco bottle?’ And I was like, ‘What?’” DuPré said. “I heard it from him. I think I’ve heard it from a few other people, but I never really cared to go look for it.”
That was until DuPré received a letter from Shane Bernard, a curator and historian from the McIlhenny Co., which produces the hot sauce on Avery Island in Louisiana, who wrote to DuPré asking if an “urban myth” he heard about the painting was true.
“It is no myth,” DuPré said in a Facebook post featuring a picture of Bernard’s letter and a closeup of the painting.
Two days later, a large commemorative collector’s bottle of Tabasco sauce arrived at DuPré’s doorstep.
“I highly advise looking for hidden bottles of Tabasco sauce in whatever art is hanging in your church,” DuPré said on Facebook.
DuPré said he hasn’t decided what he’ll do with the commemorative bottle, but he’s considering putting it in a vestibule with some directions for finding the bottle in the painting.
The painting was commissioned around 2003 by the Rev. Bryce Sibley.
Christie Hebert, the artist, said Sibley told her not to do an exact replica of the da Vinci painting.
“He wanted me to make it unique to our area,” Hebert said.
Sibley, who left the St. Joseph in 2008 and now teaches at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, said the church needed a facelift when he arrived in 2003, including new paint and artwork.
“I’ve always liked the little human element from different works that I had seen,” Sibley said. “So I said well, ‘Why don’t we insert the bottle?’ I’ve been sort of touched by the way that people find the human element of the story so compelling.”
Edmund McIlhenny created Tabasco in 1868, according to the company’s website. McIlhenny used small “cologne-type” bottles, green wax seal and sprinkler fitments to create the iconic packaging seen today.
“The sprinkler fitment was important because his pepper sauce was concentrated and best used when sprinkled, not poured,” the website states. “Though we no longer seal our bottles with wax, the sauce inside is every bit as pungent as the one McIlhenny first bottled back in 1868.”
Contributing: Camille Fine, USA TODAY