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The dark background contrasts strongly with the pale face of Saint Peter who, as recounted in the New Testament, denied Christ. This contrast assumes a symbolic intensity: darkness dominates, but the saint’s tearful eyes look upward, seeking light and forgiveness. The chiaroscuro—or tenebrism—is typical of Caravaggio’s influence on 17th-century Spanish painters and enables the viewer to focus on certain highly realistic details, as here in the craftsmen’s marked hands.

At the bottom on the right, a stone, worn book, and key can be made out. These attributes confirm the saint’s identity: the keys of Heaven and the stone referring to the words of the gospels in which Christ declares, “You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my church.”

Details

  • Title: The Repentance of Saint Peter
  • Creator: Jusepe de Ribera
  • Subject Keywords: école espagnole, saint Pierre, Ribera, Nouveau Testament, Caravagesque, XVIIe siècle, Clair-obscur, ténébrisme
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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