THE ‘KEY’ MOMENT: ‘The delivery of the keys to St. Peter’ by Pietro Perugino

Officially he is a painter, but concealed under his artistic guise is a character, a charisma and a creative burst of imagination. Pietro Perugino (1452 – 1523) is regarded as one of the greatest champions of the renewal of Italian art.

Born Pietro Vannucci, his nickname characterizes him as from Perugia, the chief city of Umbria. His fervour imbued the High Renaissance with the spirit of classical expressions.  In recognition Pope Sixtus IV called him to decorate the Sistine Chapel. So esteemed was his skill that even the end wall (which today houses the ‘Last Judgement’ by Michelangelo) was painted by him. Among his various masterpieces, one of the best known works is undoubtedly, ‘The delivery of the keys to St. Peter.’

The subject matter of the narrative is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verse 13 to 20. The painting captures the moment when Christ gives the keys of the kingdom of heaven to St. Peter who accepts it in humble adoration. The scene is not set in isolation. The apostles and the contemporary onlookers are neatly divided into two groups. They stand in contrapposto on either side of the protagonist.

While John on the right is recognized by his youthful features, Judas on the left is featured with his famous purse. Interestingly, as was the trend, Perugino depicts himself among the onlookers. He stands fifth from the right, his gaze regarding the viewer.

Pietro Perugino in the painting
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