"I have chosen this painting because it moves me deeply. The Gospels tell us that Peter, after they had arrested Jesus, denied him three times, but only Luke tells us that when Jesus heard the third denial, "The Lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter went out and wept bitterly." Peter was not a bad man, he was a weak man unable to fulfil the promises of loyalty he had made to Jesus. So this picture represents the fact that humans are flawed and fallible. Barbieri captures that universal human experience with great compassion. We should look at his painting and be humbled as we recall our own failings."
Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh and chair of the Scottish Arts Council
On the night of Christ’s arrest, Peter was questioned about whether or not he knew Jesus. Three times he denied that he knew him, but later he bitterly regretted his denial and repented, as shown here. This is almost certainly the painting commissioned in 1639 by Cardinal Ciriaco Rocci, Papal Legate of Ferrara, for which payment is recorded in Guercino’s account book in April of that year. A preparatory sketch for the painting is in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem and two other paintings by Guercino of this subject are known. A workshop replica of this composition is in the Palazzo Venezia, Rome.
Guercino was a highly original and lyrical painter and draughtsman. He was born Giovanni Francesco Barbieri in Cento near Bologna (his nickname 'Guercino' means 'squint-eyed'). He was largely self-taught, but was strongly influenced by the bold figure painting of the Carracci family and the dramatic chiaroscuro (light and shadow) of Caravaggio. Guercino chiefly worked in Cento, briefly visited Rome (1621-3), and painted a wide range of subjects, making many exquisite drawings in red chalk and ink. He excelled in daring foreshortening. After the death of his arch rival Guido Reni in 1642 he moved his studio to Bologna.