Rembrandt's Saint Peter Kneeling
In 2019 the national celebration of Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age will take place with special activities and exhibitions throughout the Netherlands. The Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam will be part of this program with an exhibition focusing on Rembrandt’s Saint Peter Kneeling.
Rembrandt (1606-1669) made Saint Peter Kneeling in Leiden in 1631. The painting features all the artist’s hallmarks: his unparalleled painting technique, his spectacular contrast between light and dark, his refined sense of colour and his layered emotional approach to the human subject. Rembrandt depicts Saint Peter, the first and most loyal of Jesus’s Apostles, in an otherworldly glow that gives the painting a religious dimension. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Saint Peter was a Jewish fisherman originally called Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah). The painting raises several questions. What kind of space does Peter inhabit? Which emotions can we read in his facial expression? And mostly: which episode from the life of Saint Peter has Rembrandt depicted here? Does it show his delivery by an angel from prison in Jerusalem or does it show his remorse following his denial of Jesus?
In fact, Rembrandt gives very little away: just enough to get the viewer thinking about Saint Peter. The exhibition challenges the public to think actively about which scenario Rembrandt intended to depict.
Original painting not included in the exhibition
The masterpiece has not been in the Netherlands for the last 120 years. Shortly before the opening of the exhibition, the Israel Museum announced that it requires certain guarantees for this loan, which the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not able to provide. As a result, the original painting cannot be displayed. The exhibition, therefore, displays Saint Peter Kneeling in reproduced form. Another original work by Rembrandt can be seen; the oil sketch Jozeph telling his dreams from around 1633. This masterpiece is a loan from the Rijksmuseum.
General Director Emile Schrijver told more about the painting, which unfortunately can not be displayed, in an interview. The link to the interview is: https://jck.nl/en/article/interview-general-director-emile-schrijver-about-saint-peter-kneeling
Credit: Rembrandt van Rijn, Saint Peter Kneeling,1631
Gift of Michael and Judy Steinhardt, New York to AFIM, The Israel Museum Collection
Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem by Elie Posner