El Greco (1541-1614)
Peter was one of the first, and closests, apostles of Christ. He is represented with white hair and beard, following traditional tales, and he holds in his left hand the keys to heaven. The key is his oldest and most common attribute. Sometimes it is just one key, but generally there are two: a golden one and a silver one, representing the keys to heaven and earth and the power to bind and unbinding, absolve and excommunicate.
Throughout the 16th century we find in Toledo interesting pictorical representations of the 12 apostles. These creations started with the predella of the main altarpiece in the church of Saint Andrew, a work signed by Juan de Borgoña and Antonio de Cremontes, in which the apotles are depicted half-length, in an attitude of dialogue and with a golden brackground. In El Greco's last years the artist renewed the meaning of these series and turned them into a novel production that was no longer destined to occupy a place in the altarpieces. He designed 13 individual paintings with the images of Christ the Saviour and the 12 apostles, cut out on neutral backgrounds, endowed with monumental form and psychological expresiveness. The apostles are covered with tunic and cloak and are accompanied by identifying attributes of each character. In addition to these attributes, El Greco envisaged, for each apostle, chromatic combinations for their clothes and their own gestures that would become codes of identification of the characters.