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The release of St Peter

circa 1635


Bernardo Strozzi


1581 - 02 Sep 1644


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.


Other Title

The release of Saint Peter


circa 1635

Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


125.5 x 114.0 cm stretcher; 149.5 x 138.8 x 7.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1965

Accession number


Artist information

Bernardo Strozzi

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history


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 23 publications


Mary Burns, Look, 'The release of St Peter', Heidelberg, Mar 1988, p 9, col illus p 9.

Edmund Capon, Great philanthropists on trial : the art of the bequest, 'The James Fairfax collection', Melbourne, 2006, pp 126–35: p 134.

Giuseppe Fiocco, Dedalo, year 2, fasc. 9, 'Bernardo Strozzi a Venezia', 1922, pp 646–65: p 656, illus p 653.

Renée Free, Art and Australia, vol 10, no 1, 'European collection', Sydney, Jul 1972, pp 63–75: p 63.

Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', Sydney, 1994, pp 108–72: p 109, col illus 109.

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', Sydney, 1988, pp 36–56: p 37, col illus p 37.

Bernard C Heyl, Worcester Art Museum Annual, vol 5, ‘Bernardo Strozzi’s “Calling of Matthew”‘, 1946, pp 33–47: pp 40–41, illus p 39, fig 7.

Luisa Mortari, Bolletino d'Arte, 'Su Bernardo Strozzi', Rome, 1955, pp 311–33: p 327. As collection of Van Diemen, Berlin.

Palazzo Labia a Venezia, Turin, 1982, pp 163–66, illus p 164.

History and legend in some selected paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1980, illus p 10.

Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, p 9, col illus p 9.

Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Acquisitions for 1966', Sydney, Apr 1967, p 340, illus p 340.

Bernardo Strozzi, Rome, 1966, pp 60, 92–93, 100, 163, 168, 186, illus fig 375 (1635/40).

Bernardo Strozzi: ventiquattro riproduzioni, Rome, 1921, p 15 illus pl 17. As collection of Van Diemen, Berlin.

Look, 'Welcome back', Sydney, Mar 2018-Apr 2018, p 12.

1966 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1966, p 21, no 19.

The angel bible, London, 2006, col illus p 11.

Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Newsletter 7, Sydney, Dec 2005, np.

Pietro Monaco e ‘La raccolta di cento dodici stampe di pitture della storia sacra’, Monfalcone, 2000, p 128, no 6. Illustrates Monaco’s print of Palazzio Labia version pp 36, 129.

Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Sydney, 1999, p 26, col illus p 26.

Bernardo Strozzi, Rome, 1995, p 197, no 516, illus p 197. (and for ‘bozzetto’ [study] pp 51, 183, no 461), as Pietro liberato dall’Angelo.

European Paintings before 1800 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1989, p 93, no 277, illus p 93.

Portrait of a Gallery, Sydney, 1984, p 23, col illus p 23.