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Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome


Domenico Corvi
Viterbo 1721–1803 Rome

The Liberation of the Apostle Peter


oil on canvas
24 3/4 x 19 1/4 inches
63 x 49 cm



(Possibly) Barberini family, Rome, until 1911
Private Collection, Paris


This scene portrays the Angel, who is to free St. Peter, in the saint’s cell on the point of waking him up. The saint’s two guards lie sleeping, and he has already been released from his chains. The vibrant palette is typical of works by Domenico Corvi at this date: pastel shades of lilac, lemon yellow and pale blue. The scene is, naturally, nocturnal, illuminated here not by a torch or candle but by the light radiating from the Angel’s halo.

As discussed in cat. 15, Corvi painted this subject as a pendant to another nocturnal New Testament scene, the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. The two are recorded as successive items in the Barberini inventory of 1911. The Barberini Saint Peter was number 200 in the inventory, and this version seems to bear no number. However, like the ex-Barberini Beheading of Saint John, this is clearly a finished work. There is another small canvas by Corvi of the Liberation of Saint Peter in the Lemme Collection (Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia) but that is a more loosely painted oil sketch, preparatory for the larger, and different, composition painted for S. Salvatore in Lauro, Rome. A third modelletto is in the Faldi collection. This is either the Barberini picture with the inventory number cleaned off or an autograph replica.❖

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