Length: 687.000 mm
Width: 506.000 mm
Room 40: Medieval Europe
Icon of St Peter
From Constantinople (modern Istabul, Turkey), around AD 1320
This striking panel was discovered in a London restorer's studio in the early 1980s. The image lay under layers of whitewash and varnish on the back of a seventeenth-century icon. It was bought by The British Museum shortly after its discovery.
At some point in its life the icon was cut down all the way around, leaving the figure off-centre with only part of his hand visible. Peter is shown in a three-quarter view, looking to his left. The scroll he holds bears a Greek text from I Peter 2:11: 'Beloved I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul'. This image of Peter, with deeply-lined eyes and thick grey hair and beard, is that of a mature man with a personal knowledge of his scripture.
The garments are painted with broad strokes in pastel colours, while the hairs are carefully delineated. The style is so similar to the mosaics and wall-paintings found at the Chora monastery (now the Kariye Camii) in Istanbul that it is likely that the same artist was responsible for this icon, known as the Master of the Chora.
D. Buckton (ed.), Byzantium: treasures of Byzant (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)
S. Mihalarias and R. Cormack, 'A major new discovery: a Byzantine panel of the fourteenth century', Zygos, 2 (1983)