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Master of the Palazzo Venezia Madonna, 'Saint Peter', about 1350 (?)

Key facts
Full title Saint Peter
Artist Master of the Palazzo Venezia Madonna
Artist dates active mid-14th century
Series Master of Palazzo Venezia Altarpiece Panels
Date made about 1350 (?)
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 60.1 × 34.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Misses Cumming in memory of their father, Charles D. Cumming, 1930
Inventory number NG4492
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Saint Peter
Master of the Palazzo Venezia Madonna

This is Saint Peter, one of Christ’s apostles, who was entrusted with the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16: 19). The panel was once part of the main tier of an altarpiece – there’s burn damage to the right of the book, probably caused by a candle placed on the altar below.

Different techniques help to create a three-dimensional effect: incised curved lines and cross-hatching makes the shaft of each key seem rounded, while the crossed end of the silver key is painted with black and white to give a sense of depth to the indentations. The saint’s striking blue eyes are painted with the expensive pigment ultramarine, as has his tunic.

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Master of Palazzo Venezia Altarpiece Panels


These panels, which show Saints Mary Magdalene and Peter, were once part of the main tier of an altarpiece. The central image was of the Virgin and Child (now in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome) and two images of saints appeared on individual panels on either side.

Our two paintings were both to the right of the image of the Virgin, with Saint Peter probably closest to it. Another showing Saint Paul (now in a private collection) was probably situated directly to the left of the central image. Our panels were at one stage converted into rectangles – the current arched tops are modern additions, attached before the panels entered our collection to restore them to their original shape.

Silver has been detected on the back of the panels in other collections. We don't know the altarpiece’s original location, but if it did have a silver back then it’s likely that it was not designed to be placed against a wall.