D1807. Blue and White Biblical Charger
Delft, circa 1660
Painted in the center with the story of the liberation of Saint Peter, which depicts an angel rescuing Saint Peter with an aureole, standing on a tile floor in front of an arched gate and underneath a chandelier, all within a roundel of a concentric line, the reverse lead-glazed.
Diameter: 36 cm. (14.2 in.)
Proto-Delft is an interesting group of Dutch earthenware that is the forerunner of Delftware. It is applied to the group of objects made in the transitional period between the exclusive manufacture of majolica and the early years of faience production (ca. 1629-1669)
The Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 12) tells the story of Saint Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. Peter was arrested by King Herod, who had already arrested and persecuted other members of the church. When Herod had James, the brother of John, put to death with a sword, he saw that this met with approval among the Jews and decided to seize Peter during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After his arrest, Peter was imprisoned and guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
The night before his trial, Peter slept between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists (12:7). Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him (12:8). Although Peter followed him out of the prison, he thought he was hallucinating. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. The door opened, and they passed through. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen” (12:11).
The liberation of Saint Peter was a popular subject for several printmakers. In the print of Nicolaes Lastman (1585 – 1625) after a design of Jan Symonsz. Pynas (1582 – 1631), Saint Peter is taken by the hand of the angel, who leads him past the sleeping guards. Also in an engraving by printmaker Jan Luyken (1649 – 1712) the angel is leading the way for Saint Peter. It is highly probable that the earthenware painter was inspired by such prints. The types of prints available to the Delft artists in the seventeenth century were woodcuts, etchings or engravings. These prints would be in the collection of the potteries, kept for this purpose, or supplied by a client for a special commission.