Rembrandt’s masterpiece from the Israel Museum
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 a unique exhibition focusing on Rembrandt’s masterpiece St. Peter in Prison (St. Peter Kneeling). This work exemplifies Rembrandt’s genius at portraying states of mind and spiritual qualities through the language of light and shadow. The painting is part of the Netherlandish art collection from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and has not been on display in the Netherlands for the last 120 years.
Rembrandt, perhaps the most prominent Dutch painter of all times, was only twenty-five when he created this painting in his studio in his hometown Leiden, Holland.
According to the New Testament, Peter was the first disciple to follow Jesus when he began preaching, and the first to spread his doctrine after his death; he was also bestowed by Jesus with the task of keeping the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
In this composition, based on an episode from The Acts of the Apostles, Peter is in King Herod's prison, after he denied his acquaintance with Jesus. The elderly Peter is kneeling, engulfed in shame and despair. Rembrandt was famous for his use of light as a distinct quality, lacking material substance, and appropriate for representing spirituality and divinity. Contrary to other artists of that period, Rembrandt did not emprise the 'happy end' of the story when an angel of God miraculously saved Peter from his cell; instead he hinted at a possible divine intervention by the single ray of light falling from a high window on the apostle.
Credit: Rembrandt van Rijn, St. Peter in Prison (St. 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