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St. Peter the Apostle - Icon in the Monastery of St. Catherine


The Icons of St. Catherine's Monastery
In Egypt's Sinai

John Watson

St. Peter the Apostle

St. Peter the Apostle - Icon in the Monastery of St. Catherine


The Saint is portrayed with large wide-open eyes, short gray hair and short well-groomed beard, holding a cross in the left hand and three keys in the right. The face is painted in the tradition of the encaustic Fayoum portraits of Alexandrian art. The Saint's head is surrounded by a large golden halo. The top fo the icon is occupied by three small medallions. The middle one, with a cross in the background, contains a portrait of Christ and the right one a portrait of the Virgin. The identification of the beardless youth portrayed in the third medallion has posed a problem to scholars. Some believe that he should be identified either with Moses or St. John the Evangelist. The latter is the choice of several scholars because he appears to correspond to the Virgin on the right of the crucified Christ. Besides, the depiction of these particular holy figures in the three medallions may be interpreted as a representation of the Crucifixion, and linked with the obvious symbolism of the cross in St. Peter's hand, which can but allude to the Saint's death on the cross. Various scholars have dated this icon to the 6th or 7th century, though an earlier date in the 5th century cannot be ruled out. It is painted using the encaustic technique (.52 X .39 meters)

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