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Saint Peter: Left Main Tier Panel
Niccolò di Pietro Gerini
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This is Saint Peter, recognisable by the colour of his robes – he is traditionally shown wearing yellow and blue – and by the large golden key he holds. It is the key to the kingdom of heaven, which was promised to him by Christ (Matthew 16: 19).

The saint’s bare feet express his simplicity and humility, but he stands upon a textile decorated with phoenixes and gilded peacock heads against fanned out tail feathers, reflecting his status. Niccolò di Pietro Gerini used a technique called sgraffito to achieve the richness of the textile. It involved painting over a layer of gold leaf and then scratching the paint away in places, revealing the gold beneath.

The panel comes from the left-hand side of the main tier of an altarpiece showing the baptism of Christ.

Key facts
Artist Niccolò di Pietro Gerini
Artist dates documented 1368; died probably 1415, certainly by 1427
Full title Saint Peter: Left Main Tier Panel
Group Baptism Altarpiece
Date made 1387
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 123.5 x 37 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG579.2
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Baptism Altarpiece

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This altarpiece is the earliest known example that shows the baptism of Christ as the central image – in large multi-panelled altarpieces it was usually the Virgin and Child.

It was made for a chapel in Santa Maria degli Angeli, the Camaldolese monastery in Florence. The chapel was dedicated to the feast commemorating Saint John the Baptist’s death, but the central panel depicts the key moment in his life: when he baptised Christ in the river Jordan.

The inscription tells us that it was commissioned by one of the monastery’s monks, Don Filippo Nerone Stoldi, in memory of his mother. The monastery contained many altarpieces commissioned by Florentine families, which served as memorials. One of the monks’ duties was to say prayers for the souls of the dead on days specified by the families.

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