(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
St Peter in Penitence1580s
Oil on canvas, 109 x 90 cm
Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle
This is the earliest version of a subject El Greco painted in at least six different autograph variants (several of which gave rise to studio copies) over the course of his career in Spain. He made the subject, which was new in the Counter-Reformation period, one of his specialities. In this painting St Peter raises his tear-filled eyes to Heaven, his hands joined in prayer. The background scene of visional qualities on the left represents the Magdalen returning from the empty tomb after receiving the announcement of Christ's resurrection from an angel.
St Peter appears a great number of times in El Greco's oeuvre and he is depicted with remarkable consistency. The saint is always shown with white hair and beard, and he often wears his yellow cloak over a blue tunic.