Friday, February 26, 2010

The Denial of St Peter

Title: The Denial of St Peter

Artist: Gerrit van Honthorst

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 111 x 149 cm

Date: 1622-24

Location: Institute of Fine Arts, Minneapolis.

Mark 14:66-71 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said.

But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway.

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean."

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."

The “curses” Peter utters are not vulgar words; rather, he vows that he does not know the man, invoking curses on himself if he is lying.

As compared with Italian painters taking up the same theme, in Honthorst's painting the emphasis is shifted towards the dramatic potential of artificial light. The face of the maidservant who identifies Peter as one of the followers of Christ is sharply illuminated by the candle she holds. Its flame is hidden by the outstretched arm of another accuser, creating a complex pattern of superimposed bright and dark areas and enhancing the atmospheric effect of the glowing light.

Gerrit van Honthorst, also known as Gerard van Honthorst (November 4, 1592 - April 27, 1656), was a Dutch painter and a leading member of the Utrecht school influenced by the Italian painter Caravaggio. He was born in Utrecht as the son of a textile painter. His younger brother Willem also became a painter. Van Honthorst was apprenticed to Abraham Bloemaert, the most celebrated master in Utrecht, and went to Italy around 1610-1615, when Caravaggio's influence there was at its height.

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