Papacy In Perugino’s The Gift Of The Keys

523 words - 3 pages

Before I discuss the importance of various symbols in Perugino's The Gift of the Keys, it is important to note that the vast majority of my knowledge about the significance of the participants and architecture in the painting come from the writing of art historian Carol Lewine, whom in her recent book discusses the fifteenth century frescoes of the Sistine Chapel (65-74). I will be following her identifications, and adding to them my own interpretations of the contribution of artistic conception and composition to meaning and effect. What makes Perugino's painting significant are the strong political, religious, and social comments made through the powerful symbols in Perugino's work. One of the ...view middle of the document...

Also flanking Christ and Peter are the dual representations of the Arch of Constantine, and immediately in bac of Christ and Peter is the glorious Temple of Solomon. The important aspect of this centralization of Christ and Peter is that it shows that even with all of the other symbols in the painting, the most important one is the gift of the keys. When Christ hands the two keys to Peter, he symbolically hands him the power to distinguish between good and evil, and the power to "bind and loose" or to "absolve sinners after appropriate penance", as Lewine puts it. (70 Lewine) Peter is often thought of roughly as the first "pope"; the first man other than God or Jesus fully qualified to judge sinners. This serves as a poignant reminder to viewers that the current pope, whomever it may be, is in every way granted the power to judge, just as Peter was, from God himself.Pope Sixtus IV is particularly singled out in comparison to Peter in this instance, as shown in the inscriptions found in the representations of the Arch of Constantine, which specifically "prais[es]…Sixtus for consecrating the Sistine Chapel, compares the Pope to Solomon," and asserts that Sixtus is "superior to the sage Jewish king in wisdom, if not in riches." (68) Even the perspective of the painting serves to draw us back towards the center and central message of the painting. The two main orthogonal lines of perspective, which can be easily seen as the two main receding lines in the pavement, stretch directly from the door of the Temple of Solomon to Peter and Christ, further emphasizing their place in the center of the scene.

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