St. Peter in Prison returns to the Netherlands after 120 years

Completed in Leiden not long before Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, St. Peter in Prison (St. Peter Kneeling), 1631, is a special painting in the master’s oeuvre. It clearly shows Rembrandt’s deft skill at rendering light and shadow to dramatic effect. Equally strong is how Rembrandt has imbued the image with emotion and drama.

At the time religion was a common subject for painting, a topic that interested Rembrandt throughout his career. Influenced by Italian masters, Rembrandt created a masterpiece that was as revolutionary for the genre as it was for the subject matter. Warm hues and dark backgrounds would become a hallmark of Rembrandt’s style creating an air of mystery in his compositions. St. Peter is depicted deep in despair, his humanity at the heart of this image as he sits imprisoned by King Herod. Symbols and details in the image hint at both St. Peter’s past and future, with the keys at his knees suggesting a potentially miraculous escape.

Rembrandt’s use of dramatic light and shadow would go on to inspire and influence generations of artists. On loan from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, St. Peter in Prison can be seen at the Jewish Cultural Quarter now.