Pietro Perugino: The delivery of the keys (1481-1482)
(Sistine Chapel, Rome, Vatican City)
This magnificent fresco is the most famous work of the Italian Renaissance painter Pietro Perugino and forms a part of the Stories of Jesus series on the Northern wall of the Sistine Chapel. On the fresco we can see three scenes life of Christ:
- In the left background we can see 'The Tribute Money' (Matthew 17:24-27). in this scene the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax asked Peter whether Jesus pays the tax which Peter confirmed that he did. Later Jesus spoke of the matter and asked the opinion of Peter: "When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”. Peter answered with "from others". Jesus responded then with "Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
- in the right background we can see the attempted stoning of Christ (John 8:31-59; 10:31-39). In this scene opponents of Christ wanted to stone Christ for blasphemy but Christ managed to escape.
- in the foreground the main scene: Christ gives to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:13-20). In this scene Peter proclaims Jesus to be Christ - the expected Messiah. In response Christ selects Peter as the leader of the Apostles, and states: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". This scene is very important for the papacy. Jesus' words, "upon this rock I will build my church" is interpreted as the foundation of the papacy, whereby the Church of Christ is founded upon Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome. Jesus' next statement, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." is interpreted as the foundation of the papal infallibility. The other persons in the foreground are Apostles and portraits of contemporaries - Perugino has also included himself (he is the fifth from the right edge, with the black beret and thick dark hair).
The two triumphal arches on the left and right are imitations of the arche of Constantine. The big octagonal building is the temple of Jerusalem.
Sitting beneath the fresco itself during a papal conclaves (as selected by lot) is regarded as a good omen as at least three cardinals who were seated beneath the fresco were elected as pope (Pope Clement VII, Pope Julius II, and Pope Paul III).
Fresco from 1481–1482.