Icon of St. Peter

Constantinople (?), 1320

Painted in egg tempera, with gold leaf, on a cedar wood panel prepared with a coarse tabby linen and gesso.

H. 687.00mm, W. 506.00mm

 

It represents a saint with a scroll, who can be identified as St Peter, set against a gold ground. The half-figure of the bearded apostle is shown looking to our right. He is dressed in a greyish blue tunic and an apricot tint pallium. The style is reminiscent of fresco painting rather than of icons. He holds an open scroll in his right hand; the scroll is white, inscribed in Greek letters in black: ΑΓΑΠΗΤΟΙ WC ΠΑΡ ΡΕΠΙΔ C (Αγαπητοί [παρκαλω] ως π[αροίκους και πα] ρεπιδ [ήμους απέχεσθαι των σαρκικων έπιθυμιων αιτινες στρατεύονται κατα της ψυχη]ς; ‘Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul’ 1 Peter 2:11). The halo is defined by two concentric arcs inscribed into the gold background.

The panel has been cut down all round from its original size, and the bust is off-centre. Only part of one hand is visible. The nose has been restored and the top of the head is damaged. An uncleaned patch has been left near the bottom of the left-hand side. The panel has been damaged by wood worm and the paint surface has suffered some abrasion. It is important to realise that the nose as it is now has been restored and that when it was being restored the paint in this area had been lost, and the restorer made a creative guess about the nature of the original nose. The back looks fresh as it is actually the result of slicing the original panel in two vertically.

Purchased from Stavros Mihalarias in 1983. The London studio of Stavros Mihalarias had accepted for restoration a 17th-century icon of Christ. During this work the back of the Christ icon was examined, and it was detected that underneath layers of whitewash and varnish was the figure of a saint. This turned out to be the icon of St Peter. In other words, this side was most likely the front of the original icon, and the panel had been turned round and re-used for a new icon of Christ in the 17th century. During this new work, the panel on which St Peter had been painted was cut down. During the work of restoration, the wooden panel was sliced apart vertically and the two icons were separated from each other. The side with St Peter was purchased by the BM in 1983, and the side with Christ remains in a private collection.

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The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016