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
125.5 x 114.0 cm stretcher; 149.5 x 138.8 x 7.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1966, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 Apr 1967–07 May 1967
European Old Masters 16th-19th Century from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, 28 Sep 2017–03 Dec 2017
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
Davide Apolloni, 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.
1966 Acquisitions, Sydney, 1966, p 21, no 19.
Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, p 9, col illus p 9.
Mary Burns, Look, 'The release of St Peter', Heidelberg, Mar 1988, p 9, col illus p 9.
Portrait of a Gallery, Sydney, 1984, p 23, col illus p 23.
Edmund Capon, Great philanthropists on trial : the art of the bequest, 'The James Fairfax collection', Melbourne, 2006, pp 126–35: p 134.
History and legend in some selected paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1980, illus p 10.
Giuseppe Fiocco, Dedalo, year 2, fasc. 9, 'Bernardo Strozzi a Venezia', 1922, pp 646–65: p 656, illus p 653.
Giuseppe Fiocco (Editor), Bernardo Strozzi: ventiquattro riproduzioni, Rome, 1921, p 15 illus pl 17. As collection of Van Diemen, Berlin.
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.
Renée Free, Art and Australia, vol 10, no 1, 'European collection', Sydney, Jul 1972, pp 63–75: p 63.
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.
Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Sydney, 1999, p 26, col illus p 26.
Louisa Mortari, Bernardo Strozzi, Rome, 1966, pp 60, 92–93, 100, 163, 168, 186, illus fig 375 (1635/40).
Louisa Mortari, 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.
Luisa Mortari, Bolletino d'Arte, 'Su Bernardo Strozzi', Rome, 1955, pp 311–33: p 327. As collection of Van Diemen, Berlin.
Terisio Pignatti, Filippo Pedrocco and Elisabetta Martinelli Pedrocco, Palazzo Labia a Venezia, Turin, 1982, pp 163–66, illus p 164.
Hazel Raven, The angel bible, London, 2006, col illus p 11.
Look, 'Welcome back', Sydney, Mar 2018-Apr 2018, p 12.
European Paintings before 1800 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1989, p 93, no 277, illus p 93.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Acquisitions for 1966', Sydney, Apr 1967, p 340, illus p 340.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Newsletter 7, Sydney, Dec 2005, np.