Ary Scheffer (1795-1858), The Denial of Peter, 1855, oil on canvas, 52 x 73 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Donald Greenwood, 1976.
This week we highlight the Dutch-born painter Ary Scheffer, who was born on February 10, 1795. Recognized as one of the more significant Romanticists in 19th-century France, Scheffer achieved some of his greatest success with his religious and literary paintings.
Simon Peter was a direct witness to many of Christ’s miracles: once-empty fishing nets suddenly overflowing, storms calmed, the dead given life, and his own wondrous walk on water. Yet even Peter’s role as an ardent follower of the Savior was challenged. In the hours preceding His betrayal and arrest, Jesus prophesied to Peter, “The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice” (John 13:38).
In the very same hour that priests of the Sanhedrin interrogated Christ, Peter denied knowing Jesus. Upon his third denial, the Lord’s prophecy was fulfilled. Christ gazed toward Peter, “and Peter remembered the word of the Lord . . . And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61 – 62). Scheffer’s painting captures Peter’s anguish as well as the radiant goodness of Christ, who looks at his grieved disciple benevolently, knowing that Divine mandate required He tread the winepress alone.