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Saint Peter freed by an Angel
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Cento, Ferrara, Emilia-Romaña, 1591 - Bolonia, Emilia-Romaña, 1666

Saint Peter freed by an Angel

Ca. 1622. Oil on canvas, 105 x 136 cm.

A youthful looking angel with curly hair imperiously points out the path of freedom to an astonished Saint Peter, depicted as a man of advanced age confined in a prison. In the background, clad in a suit of armour, the gaoler sleeps, impervious to what is going on behind his back. The two main figures are attired in vaguely classical dress: that of the angel is simple but sumptuous, in accordance with her celestial nature and ideal beauty, whereas the first pope is draped in tattered clothing owing to his precarious situation inside the dungeon. The episode is based on a supposed anecdote taken from the saint´s life. During the persecution of the apostles by Herod, when James the Great was executed, Peter was imprisoned. While he was asleep an angel appeared to him in his cell telling him to stand up and flee, which he did without being discovered. The episode symbolises the fact that the church will always be spared from enemy attacks. The composition unfolds completely in the foreground and the protagonists are depicted in great wealth of detail. Light penetrates the scene from the right of the canvas, powerfully illuminating it in such a way that the chiaroscuro skilfully spread across the surface of the canvas shapes a superb plastic expressivity that creates suitable volumes. This is a relatively early work and, like the painting of Saint Matthew and the Angel (Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome), can be dated to halfway through Guercino´s stay in Rome. Interestingly, despite the large number of drawings this artist made, so far it has not been possible to link any with absolute certainty to the Prado painting; however, all the technical and aesthetic features of the work are considered characteristic of Guercino during this period. It is reasonable to think that the Madrid painting is fully contemporaneous with The Burial of Saint Petronilla, which must have been executed in the first months of 1622 and beginning of 1623. Saint Peter displays a similar emphasis on the solidity of the images, which is accentuated by the powerful effects of light and shadow. It is surprising how here Guercino dispenses with unnecessary accessory elements that appeared to be one of the essential features of his works in a not much earlier state in his career. Another detail that should be stressed is the rich chromatic range of splendidly dramatic deep tones. Early sources do not mention the painter in relation to Spain; however, the artists´ biographer Malvasia comments in Felsina Pittrice (1678) that in Rome Guercino delivered paintings to the Capuchin Fathers, who, according to the text a las Indias, took with them on their missions to the Americas images of the Virgin that were considered miraculous in some places. No information has come to light to prove this, nor have originals or copies of these creations been discovered, if they did in fact exist -on account of their miraculous nature, they would have been popular, giving rise to more or less faithful copies painted by local artists. At the least, Velázquez stopped at Cento during his first trip to Italy, probably to meet the master, by then fairly famous (Text drawn from Luna, J. J.: From Titian to Goya. Great Masters of the Museo del Prado, National Art Museum of China-Shanghai Museum, 2007, pp. 365-366).

Technical data

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Inventory number
Saint Peter freed by an Angel
Ca. 1622
High/Height: 105 cm.; Width: 136 cm.
Royal Collection (Collection of the Marquis of La Ensenada, Madrid; acquisition of Carlos III, Madrid, 1768; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "paso de tribuna y trascuartos", 1772; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "pieza de vestir", 1794; Royal Palace, Madrid, "[1ª] pieza de vestir", 1814-1818).

Bibliography +

Inventario Palacio Nuevo. 1772, Madrid, 1772.

Inventario Palacio Nuevo. 1794, Madrid, 1794.

Inventario Palacio Real de Madrid. 1814, Madrid, 1814.

Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon : die bildenden Künstler aller Z, XV, Saur, 1922.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965.

Barbanti Grimaldi, Nefta, Il Guercino. Gian Francesco Barbieri. 1591-1666, Edizioni G.R., Bolonia, 1968, pp. lám. 93.

Milicua, José, Pintura italiana del siglo XVII en el Casón del Buen Retiro, GOYA: REVISTA DE ARTE, 1970, pp. 8.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del siglo XVII: exposición conmemorativa del ciento cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Madrid, 1970, pp. 312.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 323.

Fernández Miranda y Lozana, Fernando, Inventarios Reales. Carlos III. 1789-1790. Vol. I, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1988, pp. 18.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº603.

Ebert-Schifferer, S., Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Il Guercino 1591-1666, Nuova Alfa Editoriale, Bolonia, 1991, pp. 158.

Stone, David M., Guercino. Catalogo Completo Dei Dipinti, Cantini, Firenze, 1991, pp. 107/ lám.84.

Mahon, Denis, Guercino. Poesia e Sentimento Nella Pittura del 600, De Agostini, Milan, 2003, pp. 209.

De Tiziano a Goya: grandes maestros del Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado: SEACEX, Madrid, 2007, pp. 243.

Turner, Nicholas, Guercino 'San Pedro liberado por un ángel' En:, Caravaggio to Canaletto. The glory of Italian Baroque and Rococó painting, Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, 2013, pp. 198-199 n.31.

Mena, Manuela B., 'Guercino: el mito olvidado'. En: Maestros en la sombra, Fundación Amigos Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2013, pp. 263-289 [282].

Strinati, C. et al., Guercino e le donne. Il ritratto femminile come veicolo di Grazia, Bononia University Press, Fondazione Sorgente group, Roma, 2014, pp. 118.

Francucci, Massimo, 'Giovanni F.B. detto il Guercino. San Mateo e l' angelo' En: Guercino tra sacro e profano, Skira,, 2017, pp. 84 n.11.

Turner, Nicholas, The paintings of Guercino: a revised and expanded catalogue raisonné, Ugo Bozzi Editore,, 2017, pp. 381 n.117.

Other inventories +

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. s. n..
Paso de Tribuna y Trascuartos [...] {12741} [s. n.] = Ensenada = Otra Pintura de San Pedro en la carcel de mas de medio cuerpo de vara y media de largo y vara y quarta de caida original del Guarchino

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. s. n..
Pieza de Bestir [...] {62} Vara y media de largo, por una y quarta de alto. Sn. Pedro y el Angel que le saca de la Prisión: Guarchino, en ... 8000

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. s. n..
[1ª] Pieza de vestir [...] {21200} Vara y media de largo una y quarta de alto, San Pedro y el Angel = Guarchino

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 603.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 603.
Guercino (Juan Francisco Barbieri, llamado el) / 603. San Pedro en la carcel. / Estando en su prision se le apareció el angel del Señor, llenando la carcel de luz, y despertandole, le mando levantarse; y las cadenas se le cayeron de las manos. en el fondo se ve un soldado dormido. (Medias figuras.) (C.L.) / Alto 3 pies, 9 pulg; ancho 4 pies, 10 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 248.
248.-San Pedro en la prision. / Alto 1,05. Ancho 1,36.-Lienzo. / Estando el apóstol en su prision se le apareció el ángel del Señor, llenándole de luz, y despertándole, le mandó levantarse, y las cadenas se le cayeron de las manos. En el fondo se ve á un soldado dormido.-Medias figuras de tamaño natural. / Colec. de Carlos III. Pal. nuevo de Madrid. Paso de tribuna y tascuertos. Con esta nota marginal en el Invent.: Ensenada. / C.L.

Exhibitions +

From Titian to Goya. Great Masters from the Museo del Prado
13.09.2007 - 12.11.2007

From Titian to Goya. Great Masters from the Museo del Prado
29.06.2007 - 24.08.2007

Location +

Room 005 (On Display)

Update date: 29-09-2017 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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