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ALTHOUGH the sacred writings make no mention of the last moments of St. Peter, a pious tradition, adopted by the church, asserts that this Saint suffered martyrdom about the year 68, during the reign of Nero. He was condemned to be crucified; but judging himself unworthy of suffering the same death as Jesus Christ, he obtained permission of his persecutors to be crucified with his head downward.
The picture of Guido is solely composed of four figures. One of the executioners raises the Saint on the Cross by means of a cord, fastened round the lower part of his legs. Another holds him by the waist, and a third is in the attitude of driving a nail through his feet. The back ground represents a mass of rocks.
This picture was painted at a time when Guido was anxious to adopt the manner of Caravaggio: In this composition he approaches more to his style than in any other of his works. Josepen, jealous of the success of Caravaggio, having heard that this artist was likely to paint the crucifixion of St. Peter for the church at Rome, called St. Paul aux trois fontaines, prevailed on the Duke of Borghese to order that Guido should undertake the subject. He promised that the painter should adopt the style of Caravaggio; and the genius of Guido revealed all that he had promised.
The style of this picture is strong and sombre, and the colouring highly ingenious. The attitudes are energetic; the design, after nature, correctly executed. The costume of the figures is entirely fantastic; but that of the executioner at the top of the cross is infinitely too modern. Notwithstanding this defect, the picture has an imposing appearance: it was considered one of the best altar-pieces in Rome.
This picture, after being placed, by order of Clement XIII. in the palace of Monte Cavallo, decorated the Museum of Paiatings, established at the Vatican, by Pius VI. A fine copy of it, in Mosaic, may be seen in the church of St. Peter. It is painted on wood, about nine feet and an half high, and seven wide.