During Jesus’s arrest on the night of the Last Supper, the apostle Peter denied knowing him. Although Christ forgave his betrayal, Peter was consumed by guilt. La Tour represents Peter as an old man, reflecting on his past actions in a state of perpetual repentance. The apostle’s red-rimmed eyes and the uncertain light of the lantern suggest anxious sleepless nights; muted colors and simple forms give visual expression to Peter’s somber emotions. Unlike other artists inspired by Caravaggio, La Tour worked in relative isolation in northeastern France, and his connection to his Italian counterpart remains unclear.
The rooster next to Peter is a reference to Jesus's prediction that Peter will betray him, stating: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."