From: Roma Sacra - San
Pietro in Vaticano, © 1995 Elio de Rosa
(The Pontiff ordered the images themselves here, in a suitable place, equal to the size of the temple of Peter prince of the Apostles. In the year 1847, the first of his pontificate, while he was curator of the Vatican Works Lorenzo Lucidi)
From: Works on the Facade
of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican Polyglot Press
Some authors, among them Bonanni, Torrigio and Mignanti, attribute the two statues to Mino da Fiesole; Vasari, however, believes that they were the work of Mino of Reame, while Muntz claims that they are by Paolo Romano. With the continuation of the Vatican Basilica, begun in 1502 and completed in 1612 with the construction of the imposing facade by Maderno (1556-1629), the statues were maintained in an analogous position, but brought further to the front of the new structure.
During the pontificate of Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi 1655-1629), the architect Gianlorenzo Bernini finished the work on St. Peter's Square, with his great sloping entrance to the threshold of the Vatican Basilica; in 1666 he had completed the famous colonnade after nine years of intense labor. Bernini himself adapted the two statues of Peter and Paul at the foot of the stairs, even though their dimensions were much smaller than the new architectural complex of the Basilica demanded.
The Current Statues
The statue of St. Peter was sculpted from 1838-1840 by the Venetian sculptor Giuseppe De Fabris (b. Nove di Bassano 1790 - d. Rome 1860); the artist had studied in Milan, at the school of Gaetano Monti. At the age of twenty-three he entered the school of Canova in Rome; in 1836 he finished the funerary monument of Leo XII (Annibale della Genga 1823-1829) which is above the entrance to the Chapel of the Relics, between the Chapel of the Pieta and the Chapel of St. Sebastian, in the northern (right) nave of the Basilica.
The statue of St. Peter is iconographically faithful to the noteworthy pictures and sculptures of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; however, it especially expresses inspiration and sentiment, thereby showing the artist's reaction to the academic rigor of the era. In his right hand the apostle is holding the keys, symbol of the power promised to him by Christ in Caesarea of Philippi; in his left hand is the scroll bearing the words "ET TIBI DABO CLAVES REGNI CAELORUM' (Mt. 16, 19). One key is silver-plated, while the other is gold plated.