In his entry on this painting in the recent National Gallery exhibition catalogue, Arthur Wheelock dates the picture to circa 1624-25, a period when the young artist was still under the influence of the Utrecht Caravaggisti (see Literature). Given the connections between Lievens and these artists, it is interesting to note the divergence of his Saint Peter from two roughly contemporary works by Hendrick ter Brugghen (The Liberation of Saint Peter, circa 1624, Mauritshuis, The Hague, inv. no. 966) and Gerrit van Honthorst (The Liberation of Saint Peter, circa 1618, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, inv. no. 431). While both of these images stress the urgency and fear associated with the angel's appearance to Peter on the night before his execution, Lievens' image is more quiet and contemplative. Here, Saint Peter does not focus on an insistent angel, but rather, hands raised in prayer, seems drawn forward towards the light entering from the left, as if towards God himself.
The figures in Saint Peter Released from Prison are close stylistically and physiognomically to Lievens' slightly later series of The Four Evangelists (circa 1626-27, Museen der Stadt Bamberg, Historisches Museum; see Wheelock, op. cit., pp. 98-101). In addition to giving a similar furrowed and care-worn expression to both Saint Peter and the Evangelist Matthew, the artist has also used the blunt handle-end of his brush to articulate the whiskers of both figure's beards; and, the faces of the angel and the Evangelist John are so similar that it is possible that Lievens employed the same model for both.
As the photograph in the 2000 Sotheby's catalogue reveals, this canvas has been recently and beautifully restored, after having been cut into twelve separate pieces. Although the official reason for this damage is undocumented, it is believed to have occurred when a previous owner of the work, a White Russian living in the Ukraine cut the work in order to fit it in his saddlebags when he fled the Red Army in the early twentieth century.1 Work done at the conservation studio of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art has restored the work to more of its original appearance, although it still seems that it has been trimmed on all four sides.2
1. This history was provided by Doron J. Lurie, curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in written correspondence dated 26 February 2007. See op. cit., p. 289, note 3.
2. Ibid., p. 289, note 2.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale