This newly discovered picture was first published as an important addition to the oeuvre of Giambattista Pittoni by Annalisa Scarpa Sonino in 2009, in the catalogue to the Madrid exhibition Settecento veneziano: Dal barocco al neoclassicismo (loc. cit.). We are grateful to Professor George Knox for confirming this attribution on the basis of photographs, and for proposing that the depicted apostle is Saint Peter. As Knox notes (private communication, 28 October 2009), although Saint Peter's usual attribute of the Holy Keys is missing, he can be identified on the basis of the tuft of hair in the middle of his forehead, which is a traditional element of his iconography in Venetian painting. It is a consistent feature not only of Pittoni's depictions of the Apostle, but also, for example, of the depiction of Saint Peter by Giandomenico Tiepolo in his drawings illustrating the The Acts of Peter (see A.M. Gealt and G. Knox, Domenico Tiepolo: A New Testament, Bloomington, Indiana, 2006, pp. 544ff., pls. 228-62).
Pittoni painted numerous compositions which include the figure of Saint Peter as a principal protagonist (see F. Zava Bocazzi, Pittoni: L'Opera completa, Venice, 1979, nos. 45, 47-50, 124, 125, 361-5, 427-9). While the present work is not closely related to any of them, it bears comparison to a number of smaller easel paintings focusing on a single figure, often half-length or bust-length and, as here, closely cropped by the perimeter of the picture plane (see idem, nos. 394, 416, 443, 454). It has been proposed that the present picture may be a fragment of a larger composition, cut down and transformed into an oval; Knox, however, believes it to be an 'integral work in its own right', and not a fragment. It stands as a beautiful example of the late Venetian Baroque, infused, as Scarpa Sonino notes (private communication, 28 October 2009), with the Neapolitan influence brought to Venice in the mid-seventeenth century by Luca Giordano.