Caravaggio’s Denial of St. Peter commemorates the dramatic predawn Holy Friday event of the apostle’s denial of Jesus. Recounted in all four Gospels (Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:55–62; John 18:17–18, 25–27), Peter refused to acknowledge his discipleship, living up to Jesus’ prophecy that he would deny him three times prior to the cock’s crow. Filled with shame and remorse, Peter wept bitterly at the realization that Jesus had predicted his sin, which Peter had promised would never happen. The penitent Peter thus became a powerful symbol of Confession and Penance.
Caravaggio, The Denial of St. Peter, before 1613, oil canvas, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Herman and Lila Shickman, and Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1997.