On the Side of the Angels, part 4: St Peter and Dorothy


Another in a series of observations of early medieval paintings in the National Gallery London, an endless source of inspiration and amusement. Intended to show how I find stories in a painting, not my opinion of the subject matter nor its creator. Nothing replaces seeing the real thing!

St Peter and Dorothy, Master of the St Bartholomew Altarpiece circa 1505-1510

St Peter is about to drop his accumulated gear – two enormous keys, a book (in chamois cover) and a pair of spectacles. He is eyeing  Dorothy’s cleavage decorously, but not decorously enough.

Her incredibly fine dress is effectively inside-out, the white, demure exterior raised to reveal red and gold velvet lining and a velvet petticoat, even the lining of the sleeves is traced with flowers, like the ones in her hair, and the extraordinary goblet shaped basket she’s carrying. One can’t help feeling she’s not as devout as she’s pretending. She looks a bit of a good-time gal, and very pleased with herself.

They each step out of the picture towards us: he barefoot, she in sharply-pointed pierced-leather shoes of high fashion and a rather strange gait, her left foot seems to be on backwards.

It is as though he’s just asked her for a dance, and astonished that she has accepted (if not the idea of dancing, then dancing with him), is fumbling his catch.

© Cherry Potts 2013