Bernardo Strozzi's experience as a Capuchin monk only partly explains the certainties presented for contemplation in this master-ful canvas. Far more telling are the formal conventions of baroque painting that underscore its every detail, from its diagonal dynamic to its brazen colouring. This work can almost be read as a dictionary of Counter-Reformation precepts. 'The release of St Peter' responds to the Catholic doctrines that reinvigorated European art at the beginning of the seventeenth century. These centred on a call to arms to artists for greater realism and a more directly rendered spirituality. The angel delivering Peter from his bonds is depicted with the naturalism of an artisan going about a chore, while the saint himself is shown in glassy-eyed ecstasy - a favourite condition of baroque painting. Strozzi divides his pigment into areas of flashy impasto and delicate glazing. Flesh, fabrics, feathers and furry tufts of hair are indicated in brilliant passages of 'alla prima' painting.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
The release of Saint Peter
oil on canvas
124.5 x 113.0 cm stretcher; 149.0 x 138.5 x 8.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Palazzo Labia, Venice/Italy, possibly the 'Release of St Peter' which was in the Palazzo Labia
Van Diemen, circa 1921-circa 1955, Berlin/Germany, [dealer] in Van Diemen's collection by 1921-1955
Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, pre 1965, Vienna/Austria, dates unknown, after Van Diemen
Private Collection, pre 1965, Switzerland, dates unknown, before Burchard
Dr O.A. Burchard, pre 1965, England, Purchased by K.J. Hewett Ltd, executor of Dr Burchard's estate, 1965.
K.J. Hewett Ltd. London, pre Oct 1965, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from K.J. Hewett Ltd. 1965
Referenced in 15 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1966 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1966. cat.no. 24
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 9 (colour illus.).
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'European art in the old courts', pg. 14-23, Sydney, 1984, 23 (colour illus.).
Patricia Crawford, History and legend in some selected paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1980, 10 (illus.).
G. Fiocco, Bernardo Strozzi, 1921. plate no. XVII, as collection of Van Diemen, Berlin
G. Fiocco, B. Strozzi a Veneziz, 1922, 646.
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 37 (colour illus.).
Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 108, 109 (colour illus.).
B.C. Heyl, Worcester Art Museum, V, 1946, 33, 39 (illus.), 48.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 26 (colour illus.).
L. Mortari, Bolletino d'Arte, 1955, 327. as collection of Van Diemen, Berlin
L. Mortari, Strozzi, Rome, 1966. cat.no. 375, plate no. 375
State University of New York, Bernardo Strozzi, New York, 1967.
Peter Tomory and Robert Gaston, European Paintings before 1800 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1989, 93 (illus.). fig.no. 277
Editor Unknown (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Apr 1967.