St Peter – Keeper of the Keys of Heaven – and the rock – or foundation of the Christian Church – seen below through the eyes of Masolino, Massaccio and Filippino Lippi – and Alessandro Allori

Masaccio, Tribute Money (detail of Peter)

I make no apology for using these particular images of Peter – they are all related to my neighbouring church of Santa Maria del Carmine and the attached Brancacci Chapel,  and I love them all – especially this rather bemused looking  image below portraying Peter as an old man in yellow shawl in the Last Supper by Allessandro Allori in the Cenacolo of the Convent 

St Peter Bemused

Below, I have shown some images of the artists who painted in the Chapel and Cenacolo – To the left below are the somewhat accusative eyes of Big “dirty” Tom Massaccio,  who abandoned the project for a commission in Rome, where he died aged only 27.

Next  image is of  Filippino Lippi ,the beautiful son of  not so pretty Fra Filippo Lippi and the exquisite unhappy nun Lucretia Buti  that Fra Lippi made off with.Little Lippi was called in during the 1480’s to complete the work abandoned by the Toms and to repair the damage done when the Brancacci family fell from Medici grace and favour and after their exile were effectively air-brushed from the wall – he also painted himself twice looking out from the onlookers at events involving Peter!

Below them is Masolino – the dainty Tom, who worked with Masaccio on the chapel project but left for Hungary in 1426 before the work was completed.   He also used his own face twice in the fresco cycle – one as a dandy walking across the Piazza – and the second even more telling painting of Adam with Eve before the Fall where the serpent’s has a face that is an exact copy of Eve’s face !

Finally, a self portrait by another beautiful boy, Alessandro Allori who painted his first Last Supper in the Cenacolo of the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, which many guests don’t notice as they are looking the other way towards the film that is shown in that room!

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So, to get back to the story of the most famous of Christ’s disciple Peter ! Originally  fishermen,  he and his brother Andrew were amongst the first to be selected by Jesus to become his “fishers of men” and the fisherman theme is continued in this first fresco in the cycle in the chapel where Peter , under instruction from Jesus, finds the fee for the Roman tribute in the mouth of a fish.

 

Peter’s own miracles began after the Day of Pentecost – after which all the Disciples became fluent in foreign tongues. In the first miracle Peter, dressed in his trademark goldie-orange cloak which told the congregation of the day that he had been spoken to directly by God, pulls to his feet and  heals a 40 year old man who had been unable to walk from birth.  The image below shows the moment when Peter, with John at his side,  stretched out his hand and gave power to the man’s wasted limbs.

Masolino: Peter Heals the Crippled

Most of these frescos are three part narratives, and this one also shows the life and times of the Florentine people – hanging their washing out of the window and dragging their reluctant children towards education – and the two dandies in the centre are definitely out dressed to impress ( if not to the taste of the dreary Savonorola when he comes to town later!!) – On the right hand side we see Peter raising Tabitha from the dead in Joppa.

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Peter also brought back to life the Son of Theophilus of Antioch – who it is claimed – had been dead for 14 years – that is the subject of the painting below – originally painted by Masaccio ( seen with contemporary portraits of Brunelleschi, Leon Battista Alberti, and Masolino.on the right of the picture)  this was the panel that featured the family of Felice Brancacci family, so a lot of faces had literally been chopped off the wall!

Filippino Lippi must have had a tough job in 1480 re-plastering and filling in the new faces with people in favour with the next generations of the Medici family!

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The most disturbing of Peter’s miracles to me is the story of Ananias and his wife – both of whom “gave up the ghost” on being accused by Peter of holding back some of the money recieved from the sale of a possession when the whole of it had been promised to the cause.  The point being, I think, not that they hadn’t given all the money, but because they had both lied about whether or not it was all the money – Peter looks most unforgiving in the fresco below.  However it is a harrowing morality tale – gives one pause for thought even in modern times of truths and half-truths and the debates over what constitutes legality in tax-avoidance and tax -evasion!

Also in the Chapel Peter is shown preaching and baptising and healing the sick with his shadow – usually followed – as below by the loyal young Disciple John

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Peter then went to Rome, where in the second year of Claudius, it is claimed, he overthrew Simon Magus and this is another image in this fresco cycle – interestingly there was even a suggestion that Peter and Simon Magus were one and the same person as both performed miracles and both threw out devils – such as the imp on the floor between  Peter and the Emperor’s feet

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St Peter is said to have gone back to Rome and been put to death at the hand of Emperor Nero and to me this Emperor adjudicating the dispute with Simon Magus looks more imperious Nero-like than a stammering Claudius.

On being sentenced to crucifixion Peter claimed that he was “not worthy” to suffer the same death as Jesus Christ so was crucified upside down as shown – another grim end for a worthy man!

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