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Peter Paul Rubens - Christ’s Charge to Peter

Christ's Charge to Peter

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)

Date: Circa 1613-1615

Place Made: Flanders

Materials & Techniques: Oil on oak panel

Dimensions: 139.2 x 114.8 cm

Accession Number: The Wallace Collection, P93

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Peter kissing Jesus's hand

This painting is of a story from the Bible and was painted 400 years ago by an artist called Peter Paul Rubens. When it was painted it did not hang in a gallery like today but in a church

The younger man dressed in white is Jesus. He has light shining around his head called a halo. The older man kissing his hand is his close friend and Apostle Peter. If you look carefully you can see that Jesus and Peter are holding keys. Jesus is giving Peter the keys to Heaven.

A close-up of two sheep heads

This picture is painted on several wooden panels joined together.

Paint was made from natural products such as plants and minerals. This type of paint has oil added to it and Rubens would have had assistants, many of them still children, to make it up for him. This oil paint is high-quality; the colours are strong and have not faded over time.



Teachers' Information

The painting illustrates two episodes from the New Testament. In Matthew 16: 13-19 Jesus promises to give Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. In John 21: 15-17 Jesus commands Peter to feed his sheep. Jesus is often painted with a lamb or sheep. The lamb is a sign of Christ’s sacrifice, and also used as an analogy of Jesus the shepherd caring for his flock of followers.

The painting was a commission for a man named Nicholas Damant and hung above the tomb of Damant’s father, Peter, in a church in Brussels.The painting would have invited a contemporary audience to compare the life of Peter Damant with that of Saint Peter, the servant to Christ. Peter Damant was a loyal Catholic, serving the people of Brussels as President of the judiciary body of the Council of Flanders and as advisor to the Archdukes Albert and Isabella.


1. You could talk with the children about other biblical stories featuring Jesus and sheep such as the visit by the shepherds at His birth, the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18: 12-14 or Luke 15: 3-7) or Jesus as a good shepherd (John 10: 1-21).

2. Ask the children which famous person they would like to be compared with and how could they do this (for example by wearing the same shirt as a famous footballer).