Hendrick ter Brugghen, The Liberation of St Peter, 1629, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Schwerin

By Alte Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

Alte Pinakothek, Bavarian State Painting Collections

Liberation of St. Peter (1629/1629) by Hendrick ter BrugghenGallery of Old and New Masters, Staatliches Museum Schwerin / Ludwigslust / Güstrow

In 1629, Hendrick ter Brugghen painted the The Liberation of Saint Peter. The work represents the moment in which Peter is freed by an angel from the dark dungeon where he is awaiting execution. Here, we see the iron chains coming loose at the angel’s command:

the leg shackles have already come undone, ...

... the handcuffs are still fastened.

St Peter’s frightened expression and the position of his torso, twisted toward the angel, indicate that he has just been startled awake.

The finger of the angel pointing heavenward ...

... as well as the keys lying beside St Peter’s right foot foreshadow his later appointment as the first Pope: Christ’s successor on earth.

The foreshortened depiction of the figure of St Peter lying on the ground ...

... allows us a view of his dirty soles. Here, Ter Brugghen makes use of a characteristic feature of Dutch Caravaggesque painting: biblical narratives were always explicitly depicted in a realistic manner.

Ter Brugghen stages the Acts of the Apostles as a contrasting play of light and shadow. Setting the scene in a dark dungeon cell makes it possible to employ chiaroscuro, creating a diagonal slant of light that brings out the contrasts in the figures and emphasizes their gestures and body language.

Credits: Story

The contents were created in connection with the exhibition "Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe" at the Alte Pinakothek München. Click here to discover the world of the Caravaggisti.

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