The Crucifixion of Saint Peter
This dramatic scene depicts the crucifixion of Saint Peter, one of the twelve Apostles and the first Bishop of Rome. The figure to the left of Saint Peter holds a key, a traditional symbol of this Saint. His execution was ordered by the Roman Emperor Nero, who blamed the city’s Christians for a terrible fire that had ravaged Rome. Peter requested to be crucified upside down, as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ.
José Antolínez (1635-1675) captures Peter’s vulnerability, depicting him as almost naked, thin and frail. Peter is bound to the cross rather than nailed to it and three figures heave it into position, as a soldier wearing armour and carrying a red flag watches from his horse on the left. Despite the tense nature of the scene, the crowd of men, women, and children surrounding Peter seem largely indifferent.