'Christ's Charge to Peter'
Bodycolour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas
Height 343 cm x width 532 cm
On loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II; rcin 912945
From the fifth century the two events depicted here were sometimes conflated. At Caesarea Philippi, Christ addresses his disciples and says to Peter: 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' After the Resurrection he appears to seven of the disciples at the sea of Tiberias and charges Peter : 'Feed my sheep.' These two texts from the Gospels were the most important scriptural justifications of papal authority. They emphasize that Christ selected Peter as the foundation stone of the Church, and demonstrate his pre-eminence among the Apostles.
Here, Christ gestures with one hand towards the flock of sheep and with the other to the kneeling figure of Peter, at the head of the solid phalanx of Apostles. The focal point of this dramatic composition is Christ's pointing finger, which invests Peter with leadership of the Church.