(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)

The Denial of St Peter

c. 1610
Oil on canvas, 94 x 125 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

After the artist's many attempts to intensify the dynamics of a scene from the right, this composition offers a dramatic sequence of figures from the left. On a very dark night with deep shadows and without any indication of artificial light, a soldier wearing a helmet and armor appears from the left. He is turning his face so far round to the maid that it gets swallowed up by the darkness. The maid herself, her face obscured by the soldier's shadow, is peering at the soldier from close quarters. She is pointing her left hand at St Peter, who is holding both hands against his chest in a gestion of confirmation. For the apostle, Caravaggio has chosen a model who would be ideal for an old satyr or for Socrates. The artist usually introduced heads like this for executioners.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 21 minutes):
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Missa Brevis (Tu es Petrus)