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Gallery Text

This work shows the robust style of painting Rubens developed after 1608, when he returned to Antwerp after nearly a decade of working in Italy. Rubens set up a successful workshop in his home city, where the Counter-Reformation was in full swing. Many of his commissions came from churches whose artworks had been damaged or destroyed during the Protestant iconoclastic riots of the previous century.

Paired with an image of Saint Paul (displayed nearby), Saint Peter is shown in profile, a view evocative of Roman coins. In his hand are the keys to the gates of heaven, glinting against a black background. Despite its austere subject matter, the painting has an exuberant, even irrepressible quality, with loose, rhythmic brushwork inspired by Venetian painting, and flashes of bright color: blue mingled with the white highlights in the hair, and strokes of vivid pink in the flesh.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish (Siegen, Westphalia 1577 - 1640 Antwerp, Belgium)
Saint Peter
Work Type
c. 1615
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on panel
65.5 x 48.5 cm (25 13/16 x 19 1/8 in.)
framed: 92.5 x 75 cm (36 7/16 x 29 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
?St. Donatus's Church, Bruges. Augustine Monastery of St. Florian, St. Florian, Austria (Chorherrenstift Sankt Florian) (until 1936) sold; to [Galerie Sankt Lucas, Vienna], sold; to [Dr. and Mrs. Rudolf J. Heinemann], (1936-1997) bequest; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1997.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Lore Heinemann in memory of her husband, Dr. Rudolf J. Heinemann
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Johannes Hollnsteiner, Das Chorherrenstift St. Florian (Steyr, Austria, 1923), p. 41, repro.
  • William R. Valentiner, "Rubens' Paintings in America", The Art Quarterly (1946), vol. IX, p. 159, no. 53
  • Jan-Albert Goris and Julius S. Held, Rubens in America, Pantheon Books (New York and Antwerp, 1947), p. 36, no. 65, pl. 49
  • Erik Larsen, Peter Paul Rubens, De Sikkel (Antwerp, 1952), p. 216, no. 35
  • Hans Vlieghe, Saints, I (Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard), Phaidon (London, England and New York, NY, 1972), pp. 68-70, no. 53, repr. as fig. 95
  • James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), pp. 46-47, repr. p. 46

Exhibition History

  • Calming the Tempest with Peter Paul Rubens, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/22/2001 - 03/17/2002
  • Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 09/08/2017

Verification Level

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