The giving of the keys to Saint Peter | Pietro Perugino | 1482

The giving of the keys to Saint Peter | Pietro Perugino | 1482

The Italian Pietro Vannucci is born in the year 1446 en Perugia, place from which he will be known in the art world.  

Because of the time, the information we have on the painter is scarce. And, almost all of it, comes from the already mentioned book by Giorgio Vasari “The lives of the artists” published in 1511. However, there is something certain: the skill of the artist was acknowledged very early in his life.

In the renaissance Italy, the requests were asked to the greatest exponents of painting locally. And, before turning 40, Perugino was requested to paint a fresco in one of the walls of the Sistine Chapel, an honor reserved only for few. That’s why Perugino devoted himself there to paint his masterpiece, The giving of the keys to Saint Peter, in 1482.

In the painting, we see Christ handling the keys of heaven to St. Peter, the first pope of the Catholic Church. Around them, we see the 12 apostles, with a halo above their heads, mixed with other personalities of that time. Even, Perugino painted himself (the 7th character at the left of Christ), which doesn’t surprise us much, knowing that little ago was discovered that Michelangelo also painted himself in his work The final judgment. Seems like these artist, although a bit narcissistic, had sense of humor.

Behind the main characters, we see represented 2 situations from the life of Jesus. To the left, it is represented the scene of the payment of the tributes; and, on the right, the scene of the lapidation of Christ. More on the background, we see 3 buildings: the one in the middle is easy identifiable, as it is the church of Jerusalem, with its unmistakable gold dome; the other two constructions on the sides, however do not seem to represent absolutely nothing, as they are two arches without any use. It is commonly thought that they are there only to balance the composition.

Despite his achievement, Perugino continues receiving critics of the work. He is reproached that the perspective fails, that the scene hadn’t take place in Jerusalem but in Caesarea, and that the arches are superfluous. But, evidently, it didn’t matter the artist in life because he became really famous, had Raphael as a student and died extremely rich.