National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Jerome in the Desert Desiderio da Settignano (artist)
Florentine, c. 1429 - 1464
Saint Jerome in the Desert, c. 1461
marble
overall: 42.7 x 54.8 cm (16 13/16 x 21 9/16 in.) framed: 58.4 x 70.2 x 9.5 cm (23 x 27 5/8 x 3 3/4 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.113
Not on View
From the Tour: Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century
Object 3 of 8

Clearly Desiderio had learned much from the low-relief techniques of Donatello. The sculptor invented a rocky, wilderness landscape with a cloud-streaked sky and tall, pointed cypress trees receding into the distance among the cliffs. In the foreground, Saint Jerome kneels in penitential prayer before a crucifix. He wears only a few crumpled wisps of drapery, and his gaunt face tells of fervent, ascetic devotion. On the right, in particularly fine low relief, suggesting he is some distance in the background, a terrified boy flees from the lions that emerge from the rocks on the left behind the cross.

According to legend, Jerome tamed a lion by removing a thorn from its paw, and the lion therefore often appears as his attribute in art. The lions here, clearly no threat to the saint, suggest his harmonious relationship with nature, achieved through solitary meditation, prayer, and penance.

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