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Saint Peter
Carlo Crivelli
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This stern and commanding figure is Saint Peter, the first pope and one of the founders of the Catholic Church. He comes from a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) which Crivelli painted for the high altar of the church of San Domenico, in Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. His hooded eyes gaze intently out at us, while his greying beard, tanned face and deeply lined features, painted with Crivelli’s customary exactness, suggest a life of toil in the open air: Peter was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee before being called by Christ to join him.

Peter stands on a marble shelf, like a statue, in front of a background of burnished gold which is tooled – patterned with special tools – to look like damask. In a detail typical of Crivelli, his right shoe pokes out over the edge of the marble parapet – as if asking us to kiss his foot, as those admitted to audience with a pope would have done.

Key facts
Artist Carlo Crivelli
Artist dates about 1430/5 - about 1494
Full title Saint Peter
Group The Demidoff Altarpiece
Date made 1476
Medium and support Tempera on lime
Dimensions 139 x 40.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1868
Inventory number NG788.3
Location in Gallery Room 57
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The Demidoff Altarpiece

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Crivelli painted two altarpieces for the small church of San Domenico, in the town of Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. Their history is complex and intertwined. A large, double-tiered polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) sat on the high altar, while a smaller altarpiece was in a side chapel.

In the nineteenth century parts of both altarpieces were sold to a Russian prince, Anatole Demidoff, who mounted them in a grand frame to make a three-tiered altarpiece for the chapel of his villa in Florence. The whole complex is now known as the Demidoff Altarpiece.

The National Gallery bought the Demidoff Altarpiece in 1868, and in 1961 the panels from the smaller polyptych were removed. They are now displayed separately.

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