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The Charge of St. Peter, from The Acts of the Apostles series
The Charge of St. Peter, from The Acts of the Apostles series
Not on display
Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave
381 x 322.6 cm (150 x 127.5 in.)
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Catherine D. Wentworth Collection

Exhibition History:

Five Centuries of Tapestry, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 1976
National Tour: Five Centuries of Tapestry, Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, New York, 12/3/77- 1/29/78; Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, 5/13/78 - 7/2/78; Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, 9/13/78 - 10/29/78
Gallery Rotation, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 1988 and later

The risen Lord appeared to his disciples for the third time as they fished by the sea of Tiberias. Jesus asked the question of Peter three times, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” To Peter’s reply, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” Jesus rejoined, “Feed my lambs,” and “Feed my sheep.” The account is given in John 21: 14-17. The scene’s importance in the iconographical program of the papal church is evident. It provides the historical basis for the authority of the pope. As the heir of Saint Peter, he is directly charged by Christ with the care of his spiritual flock. The scene is sometimes called “The Giving of the Keys” because of the prominence of the keys in Saint Peter’s hand. The title is probably inappropriate, for the Jesus of the cartoon merely points to Peter with one hand while he designates with the other the sheep that graze nearby. The lateral squeezing of the composition has obscured the clarity of the statement. The sheep in the tapestry intervene between Jesus and Saint Peter. The disciples, of whom only nine others instead of eleven are visible, have been telescoped in a similar fashion. Much greater interest is given to plant forms than appeared in Raphael’s cartoon. The mountainous scenery has effectively raised the horizon. Flemish taste is particularly well represented by the remarkable borders. In the center of the lower border, a triton and a mermaid with a mirror rest on the surface of a feathery sea, surrounded by marine beasts. The borders of two other tapestries of the set show the same scene. From Anna Gray Bennett, "Five Centuries of Tapestry: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco" (San Francisco: Chronicle Books; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1976; repr. 1992): 172.