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Yellow for St.

Peter
Joannes Richter

Fig. 1: Giotto - The Kiss of Judas

Having identified yellow as a traitor's symbol in medieval paintings we might be disturbed by


identifying the same traitor's colour yellow for a saint: St. Peter! There are a number of paintings in
which Peter has been dressed in yellow, obviously for his threefold denying of Jesus.
After Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the mob took Jesus to the house of
Caiaphas, the high priest. Peter had vowed he would never desert Jesus. But Jesus said to him,
"Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." All of Jesus' disciples ran away in fear
when Jesus was arrested. But Peter followed at a distance and came to the courtyard of the high
priest. Three different people recognized him as one of Jesus' disciples, but Peter strongly denied it
each time. Then a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said. He felt very ashamed
and began to cry. The act of denying Jesus and the false vow to never desert Jesus probably inspired
the artists to dress St. Peter with the traitor's symbol yellow.
The idea of depicting St. Peter as a traitor has not been found at all paintings of the scene. Some
artists will depict St. Peter as a saint, dressed in red and blue.
Some of the relevant paintings have been documented in this paper.
Giotto - Kiss of Judas
Jesus is dressed in traditional divine garments coloured red and blue wearing a golden corona.
Both Judas (kissing Jesus without a corona around his head) and St. Peter (cutting a man's ear a
wearing a golden corona around his head) have been dressed in yellow garments. Additionally St.
Peter is wearing a red robe.
Peter is cutting off the ear of Malchus (the high priest’s servant) with a knife, but Jesus will be
healing Malchus’s severed ear.

Fig. 2: Giotto - The Kiss of Judas

Giotto. The Kiss of Judas. 1304-1306. Fresco.


Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy.
Fra Angelico - Arrest of Christ
Jesus is dressed in traditional divine garments coloured red and blue wearing a golden corona.
Both Judas (kissing Jesus with a blue corona around his head) and St. Peter (cutting a man's ear a
wearing a golden corona around his head) have been dressed in yellow garments. Additionally Judas
is wearing a red robe.

Fig. 3: Fra Angelico. Arrest of Christ. c.1450

Fra Angelico.
Title: Arrest of Christ.
circa 1450. Fresco,
Museo di San Marco, Cell 33, Florence, Italy.
The Arrest of Christ 1290s
Jesus is dressed in garments coloured brown & purple (?) wearing a golden corona.
Both Judas (kissing Jesus without a corona around his head) and St. Peter (cutting a man's ear a
wearing a golden corona around his head) have been dressed in yellow garments. Additionally St.
Peter is wearing a white robe. Judas is wearing an additional garment coloured green.

Fig. 4: The Kiss of Judas at the Assisi Church Fresco

Title: The Arrest of Christ 1290s


oil on Canvas.
Italian Unknown Masters
http://www.wikigallery.org/
Fresco, Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi
Arrest of Christ, Evora Altarpiece
Jesus is dressed in a blue garment.
Judas (kissing Jesus) is wearing a yellow dress.
St. Peter (cutting a man's ear) has been painted wearing red & blue garments.

Fig. 5: The Arrest of Christ by the Master of the Evora Altarpiece

The Arrest of Christ, oil on panel painting


by the Master of the Evora Altarpiece,
circa 1500, Museu de Évora, Portugal
The Kiss of Judas by Cornelis Engebrechtsz
Jesus is dressed in a blue garment.
Judas (kissing Jesus) is wearing a yellow and white dress.
St. Peter (cutting a man's ear) has been painted wearing blue garments.

Fig. 6: The Kiss of Judas by Cornelis Engebrechtsz (1500)


The Tribute Money by Masaccio
At the left of the painting St. Peter (who laid his yellow garments on the beach) is taking the money
out of the mouth of the fish. The final scene – where Peter, dressed in a yellow garment, paying the
tax collector – is at the right.
Preparing this painting for the description in Red and Blue in the Middle Age I did not understand
why St. Peter's dress had been coloured yellow. Again I did not understand the symbolic colour
yellow for St. Peter in writing Yellow for Judas because there is no Judas in this painting.

Fig. 7: The Tribute Money by Masaccio (1420)

The image is from the Wikimedia Commons. The info has been copied from Wikipedia: The Tribute Money

The Tribute Money is a fresco by the Italian renaissance painter Masaccio, located in the Brancacci
Chapel of the basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, and completed by his senior
collaborator, Masolino. Painted in the 1420s, it is widely considered among Massaccio's best work,
and a vital part of the development of renaissance art.

The story is told in three parts that do not occur sequentially, but the narrative logic is still
maintained, through compositional devises. The central scene is that of the tax collector demanding
the tribute. The head of Christ is the vanishing point of the painting, drawing the eyes of the
spectator there. Both Christ and Peter then point to the left hand part of the painting, where the next
scene takes place in the middle background: Peter taking the money out of the mouth of the fish.
The final scene – where Peter pays the tax collector – is at the right.

Traditionally Jesus is dressed in pink and blue. While the holy men – except for St. Peter - are
dressed almost entirely in robes of pastel pink and blue, the official wears a shorter tunic of a
striking vermilion. The colour adds to the impertinence expressed through his gestures. The colours
are contrasting the holy men and the impertinent tax collector.
Jean-Auguste-Ingres
Jesus has been dressed in pink & blue, whereas Petrus wears a yellow garment.

Fig. 8: Jesus hands out the keys for Paradise to Saint Peter

Jesus hands out the keys for Paradise to Saint Peter (1820)
Wikipedia
Christus übergibt Petrus die Schlüssel des Paradieses Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1820 Öl
auf Leinwand, 280 cm × 217 cm Musée Ingres
Kiss of Judas Iscariot
Jesus (with a golden corona) is dressed in a blue garment.
Judas (kissing Jesus) is wearing a yellow dress and a blue robe for disguise ?).
St. Peter (with a golden corona and cutting a man's ear) has been painted wearing red & blue
garments.

Fig. 9: Kiss of Judas Iscariot

Kiss of Judas Iscariot,


anonymous painting of the 12th century,
Uffizi Gallery, Florence