“The Repentant St. Peter” by Francisco Goya shows the saint in tearful repentance with the “Keys of Heaven”. In this painting St Peter raises his tear-filled eyes to Heaven, his hands joined in prayer. This image of St Peter is reminiscent of the earlier El Greco paintings which also show the saint with white hair and beard, and his yellow cloak over a blue tunic. In the Goya’s version, the saint is shown balder and much heavier set than the Goya elongated and austere depictions.
During El Greco’s time, the tearful Saint Peter was used by theologians of the Counter-Reformation as a way of drawing a parallel between the saint’s weakness and mortal man. The tearful image was used to elicit an emotional response from the believer to the image and to the church.
Saint Peter (30 AD to 64-68 AD), also known as Simon Peter, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, is traditionally regarded as the first Bishop of Rome. He is venerated as a major saint and as the founder of the Roman Church. In the Gospel of Matthew 16:19, Jesus says to Peter:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The “keys of heaven” or “keys of Saint Peter” are seen as a symbol of papal authority. The crossed keys in the coat of arms of the Holy See symbolise the keys of heaven entrusted to Simon Peter. Saint Peter is often depicted in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox paintings and other artwork as holding a key or a set of keys. The general layout of St Peter’s Basilica also is roughly key-shaped; evocative of the keys entrusted to Saint Peter. Since the 16th century, a symbolical pair of keys is created for every pope and buried on death with him.
Francisco Goya is considered the most important Spanish artist of late 18th and early 19th centuries and was a commentator and chronicler of his era. He is often referred to as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns.
- Title: The Repentant St. Peter
- Artist: Francisco Goya
- Year: 1824
- Medium: Oil on panel
- Dimensions: Height: 28.75 mm (1.13 in). Width: 25.25 mm (0.99 in).
- Museum: The Phillips Collection
Artist Essential Facts:
- Name: Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
- Birth: 1746 – Fuendetodos, Aragon, Spain
- Died: 1828 (aged 82) – Bordeaux, France
- Nationality: Spanish
- Movement: Romanticism
- The Second of May 1808, 1814
- The Third of May 1808, 1814. Oil on canvas, 266 х 345 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid
- La maja vestida, 1800–1805
- Charles IV of Spain and His Family, 1800
- The Parasol, 1777
- Sacrifice to Pan, 1771. Colección José Gudiol, Barcelona
“The habit doesn’t make the monk. – El hábito no hace al monje. “
Photo Credit: Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons