Temple Gallery

Established 1959


BZ15. Saint Peter the Apostle
Crete or Ionian Islands, ca. 1650
Tempera and gold on gesso on wood.
Panel: 52 x 43.3 x 2 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial
Condition: good condition, small restoration to the side of the head
Inscription: Ο ΑΓ(ΙΟC) ΠΕΤΡΟC (Saint Peter)
Provenance: European art market
Feast Day: 29th of June (shared with Paul the Apostle)

We are grateful to Dr Eleni Treviza PhD for researching and writing this entry for us.

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St. Peter the Apostle is depicted seated on a throne, turning slightly towards the viewer’s right with his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing, while in his left hand he holds a closed scroll and the keys of Heaven. He is clad in a blue-green chiton with a gold band on the left arm and a brown himation. The throne is of marble, without a back-rest, and is adorned with small relief arches.

The icon belongs to a group of icons of the Apostles forming part of a Great Deesis, a series of icons usually placed on the epistyle of the templon. In the Great Deesis, apart from the Apostles, Christ is depicted in the centre, flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist with their hands raised in supplication to Him.

The iconographic type of St. Peter Enthroned, depicting him turning slightly to the viewer’s right and bestowing a blessing with one hand while holding a scroll in the other, does not differ from the traditional depiction of the subject. However, the closed scroll and the keys of Heaven hanging from a cord derive from depictions of a standing St. Peter that already existed in the 15th and 16th centuries.1

The portrayal of St. Peter the Apostle seated on a marble throne occurs in various ensembles of Great Deesis icons, such as that in the Church of St. Panteleimon on Zakynthos in the seventeenth century (fig. 1) 2, those in various Corfiote churches, seventeenth century 3 and that in the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos in the first few decades of seventeenth century. 4

Fig. 1: Saint Peter, 17th century, Cretan. Saint Panteleimon’s Church, Zakynthos.

The marble throne derives from Western art and appears in 15th-century Byzantine art in various forms5. This form of the throne, with its relief surface and decoration consisting of small relief arches, also occurs in the ensemble of icons on the same subject on Zakynthos (seventeenth century), except that in the latter the thrones have back-rests. A similarly structured throne also occurs in works by Emmanuel Tzanes (1654). 6Another feature that this icon of St. Peter shares in common with the icons on Zakynthos and those by Emmanuel Tzanes is the absence of a cushion on the throne.

Stylistically, this icon is similar to works of the mid-seventeenth century, such as the icon of St. Peter in the Velimezis Collection7 and that of St. Mark in the Kremlin Museum.8 At the same time, like the latter works, it has also been influenced by the work of the painter Emmanuel Tzanes.9

The intensity of the expression is achieved through elegantly executed highlights, such as the successive curved brushstrokes of off-white paint on the brow ridge and beneath the tear sacs. The suppleness of the lines, the relief effect of the flesh tones, the inclination to depict fine detail and the elegant rendering of the hair are common stylistic features of these works.

In conclusion, this icon can be dated to the mid-17th century (most likely to the third quarter) and can be attributed to a very capable painter who was a contemporary of Emmanuel Tzanes and was influenced by the latter’s work.

Detail: Back of Panel


  1. Icons of the Cretan School, Exibition Catalogue, ed. M. Borboudakis, Heraklion 1993, 481- 483, no. 125, fig. 125 (in Greek). [return]
  2. I. Rigopoulos, Icons of Zakynthos, v. 3, Athens 2006, 404 ff., figs. 258, 260 (in Greek) [return]
  3. P. Vocotopoulos, Icons of Corfu, Athens 1990, 148 ff., figs. 271-285 (in Greek) [return]
  4. M. Chatzidakis, Icons of Patmos: questions of Byzantine and post-Byzantine painting, Athens 1985, 166, pl. 186. [return]
  5. Vassilaki M. (ed.), The Hand of Angelos. An Icon Painter in Venetian Crete, Athens 2010, 196, no. 47. [return]
  6. Vocotopoulos, Icons of Corfu, figs. 221, 223 [return]
  7. Chatzidaki N., Icons. The Velimezis Collection, Athens 1998, 266 ff., figs. 160 - 161. [return]
  8. Icons of the Cretan School, 433, fig. 83 (I. Kyzlasova - N. Markina). [return]
  9. See, for example, the icons of St. John of Damascus (1654) as well as St. John the Baptist in Corfu (Vocotopoulos, Icons of Corfu, 117 - 119, fig. 57 and 121 – 122, fig. 234 respectively). [return]