This painting illustrates a scene from the Christian Bible. A young maidservant accuses the apostle Peter, in the yellow cloak, of knowing Jesus. Fearing for his own safety, Peter denies the acquaintance.
While working in Italy, the Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst earned the nickname Gerard of the Night for his dramatically lit night scenes. Like the Italian artist Caravaggio, whom he admired, Honthorst constructed psychologically intense paintings through the use of strong contrasts of light and shadow, close-ups of large working-class figures, and expressive hand gestures.