Delivery of the keys to San Pedro, Perugino

Delivery of the keys to San Pedro, Perugino
Delivery of the keys to San Pedro, Perugino

When we think of the decoration of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, we often think of the frescoes that Michelangelo painted in the famous room, however Michelangelo's paintings only occupy the vault of the chapel and the wall of the main altar, the rest of the walls were painted by other artists. In the summer of 1481, some of the best Renaissance artists gathered in the Sistine Chapel, summoned by Pope Sixtus IV; In this way, artists of the stature of Boticelli, Rosselli or Ghirlandaio began the frescoes that would decorate the naves.


In this context, the artist Pietro Perugino (1448 – 1523) was also called upon to participate in the decoration of the works. Perugino, whose real man was Pietro Di Cristoforo Vanucci, was one of the most prominent artists of the Renaissance. Not much data is known about his training, but it seems that the influence of authors such as Piero Della Francesca were decisive in Perugino's artistic conception. In Florence he worked in the workshop of Andrea Verrochio and around the year 1472 the artist obtained the title of master; from this point on he became one of the most influential artists of the Italian Renaissance although ultimately his artistic personality was overshadowed by the talent of one of his most beloved disciples, Raphael of Sanzio.

The play thatHere we are concerned, The delivery of the keys to Saint Peter, is a fresco painting with a horizontal format that measures just over five and a half meters wide and more than three meters high. Perugino had already worked for Sixtus IV previously, so the artist enjoyed a certain freedom despite the strict rules that should govern the entire iconographic program of the Sistine Chapel.

In the center of the composition and in an eminent foreground,Jesus Christ hands over the keys of his church to Saint Peter,appointing him as head of the Church and first bishop of Rome. Flanking the protagonists are two groups of characters to the right and left in which the artist has included the Apostles and other characters and even a self-portrait of himself. In the background we find other characters scattered around the square -in Renaissance style- and among them two different scenes can be seen: the stoning of Jesus Christ and to the right a scene that represents the payment of tribute. Among the characters, special mention deserves the multitude of gestures and postures that represent a true study of the personality and the tactile quality of the fabrics.

The composition takes place in a classicist-style urban setting with an octagonal temple in the central area flanked by two Roman-style triumphal arches. This same composition will be used by the artist for a painting that he will paint twenty years later, The Betrothal of the Virgin, which will also inspire the well-known work ofRafael who painted it inspired by his master's.

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