George de la Tour, The Denial of St Peter, 1650

The Denial of Peter was a popular subject to paint in the Baroque era, and there are many dramatic candlelit scenes from this time. The biblical story goes that during the Last Supper Jesus explains that Peter will disown and deny knowing him three times before the rooster crows in the morning. Peter vows he would never do such a thing, as do the other disciples. Talk about an awkward dinner conversation!
The temple guards come that night to seize Jesus. The servant girl points out Peter to the guards and says that he knows Jesus, which Peter denies. It happens again that he denies knowing Jesus to the servant girl. Finally Peter declares this to everyone, and at just that moment, the rooster crows. Peter then realizes that the prophecy came true, breaks down, and admits his betrayal. La Tour gives us a scene from one of the first two denials, where Peter (the old man on the left) is telling the servant girl that he doesn’t know Jesus. The guards are gambling, but one looks up from the game to witness the conversation, alerting us viewers to the significance of it.

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