The Liberation of Saint Peter
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Laurent de La Hyre
French, about 1647
Black chalk and brown wash
9 3/8 x 7 3/4 in.

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In this simple yet dramatic composition, an angel leads Saint Peter past the sleeping guards, releasing him from King Herod's imprisonment on the night before his trial. Early Christians traditionally regarded the episode as symbolic of the coming deliverance of the Church from persecution.

With its elegantly posed figures, carefully drawn drapery, and delicate combination of black chalk and brown wash, this scene epitomizes Laurent de la Hyre's refined, distinctive draftsmanship. Powerful lines representing supernatural light emanate from the angel and focus the viewer's eye on the two protagonists. Silhouetted against this brilliant light, Saint Peter's strong form resembles a three-dimensional statue. The bodies of the sleeping soldiers anchor the scene at the bottom, echoing the heavy, intersecting beams in the upper right.