(b. 1591, Antwerpen, d. 1651, Antwerpen)
Denial of St Peter1620s
Oil on canvas, 123 x 161 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
In his years in Italy, Gerard Seghers conformed to the ideas of the 'Tenebrosi'. After his return to Antwerp he could take full advantage of the fashionable interest in Caravaggist painting, which had become an international phenomenon. He became celebrated for his monumental half-length genre scenes. But he was highly regarded in the 1620s for his large religious and allegorical pictures, conceived in a genre style, and mostly done in landscape format. These paintings, such as the Denial of St Peter, contain scenes with numerous characters, depicted with lively poses and facial expressions, grouped compactly together against an undefined background; they are painted half-length or are cut off by the edge of the painting. The concealed candlelight casts a flickering and sharply contrasting gleam on the multi-coloured, theatrical clothing of the figures creating a powerful dramatic effect.
These Caravaggist group compositions differ only in subject from contemporary secular genre paintings and just like them are ultimately derived from the compositions of Caravaggio's pupil Bartolomeo Manfredi. There is also a strong relationship with the style of Gerrit van Honthorst of Utrecht, who must have known Seghers in Rome.