The penitent, half-naked Saint Jerome contemplates a crucifix. His chest is bloodied and raw from beating himself with a stone. Jerome was a priest and scholar who translated the Bible into Latin. During the period of his life depicted here, it is said that he went into the wilderness in Syria to study the Bible and to write, giving up material comforts. In a story about that time, he tamed a lion by treating its wounded paw. He is shown here with memento mori symbols (reminders of death) of a skull and an hourglass.
The overall style of this painting is that of Paolo Veronese; however, certain traits of the painting suggest that the work was completed by someone who worked under him in his studio. This assistant may have been Paolo’s younger brother Benedetto Caliari. The hard, shiny, and planar treatment of the foreground drapery and the approach to musculature resemble examples seen elsewhere in Benedetto’s work. The younger brother went on to become Veronese’s primary artistic heir after the master’s death in 1588.
In keeping with a well-established iconography, the penitent, half-naked saint is shown contemplating a crucifix and about to mortify his flesh by beating his breast with a stone. Prominently visible are his attributes of a tame lion, the Bible he translated into Latin, and the memento mori symbols of a skull and an hourglass.
While the generic style is clearly that of
Wilhelm Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley, eds., Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1951–1956 (Washington, DC, 1956), 192; Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School (London, 1957), 1:130; Terisio Pignatti, Veronese (Venice, 1976), 1:131; Rodolfo Pallucchini, Veronese (Milan, 1984), 86–87, 177; Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco, Veronese: Catalogo completo dei dipinti (Florence, 1991), 178; Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco, Veronese (Milan, 1995), 1:266–267.
Richard Cocke, “Review of Veronese, L’Opera Completa, by Terisio Pignatti,” The Burlington Magazine 119 (1977): 787; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:526.
For Benedetto Caliari, see Luciana Crosato Larcher, “Note su Benedetto Caliari,” Arte veneta 23 (1969): 115–130; Cecil Gould, “Caliari, Benedetto,” in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, ed. Alberto Maria Ghisalberti (Rome, 1973), 16:700–701; Luciana Larcher Crosato, “La bottega di Paolo Veronese,” in Nuovi studi su Paolo Veronese, ed. Massimo Gemin (Venice, 1990), 256–259; Diana Gisolfi, “Caliari. (1) Benedetto Calieri (2) Carlo Caliari,” in The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner (New York and London, 1996), 5:431–432; Hans Dieter Huber, Paolo Veronese: Kunst als soziales System (Munich, 2005), 33–48.
For these works and their dating, see Peter Humfrey and Allison Sherman, “The Lost Church of San Niccolò ai Frari (San Nicoletto) in Venice and Its Painted Decoration,” Artibus et Historiae 36, no. 72 (2015): 247–281.
The attribution of the present picture to an assistant, perhaps Benedetto, rather than to the master himself in turn affects any assessment of the date. Whereas Pignatti and Pallucchini placed the picture close to the Murano Saint Jerome of 1565,
Terisio Pignatti, Veronese (Venice, 1976), 1:131; Rodolfo Pallucchini, Veronese (Milan, 1984), 86–87, 177; Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco, Veronese: Catalogo completo dei dipinti (Florence, 1991), 178; Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco, Veronese (Milan, 1995), 1:266–267.
Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:526; Annalisa Perissa Torrini, “San Gerolamo Penitente,” Quaderni della Soprintendenza ai Beni Artistici e Storici di Venezia 15 (1988): 139.
According to Suida, the work may be identical with “a little picture with Saint Jerome” by Veronese recorded by Carlo Ridolfi (1648), Marco Boschini (1664), and Anton Maria Zanetti (1733) in the passage leading to the sacristy in the church of San Sebastiano in Venice.
Carlo Ridolfi, Le maraviglie dell’arte, overo Le vite de gl’illustri pittori veneti, e dello stato, ed. Detlev von Hadeln (Berlin, 1914), 1:309 (“Nell’andito nel passare in Sacrestia è picciolo quadretto di San Girolamo”); Marco Boschini, Le minere della pittura (Venice, 1664), 336; Anton Maria Zanetti, Descrizione di tutte le pubbliche pitture della città di Venezia (Venice, 1733), 325; Wilhelm Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley, eds., Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1951–1956 (Washington, DC, 1956), 192.
Shapley recorded the existence of a coarse copy in the Museo Provincial, Gerona.
Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:526.
March 21, 2019
Peter Lely [1618-1680], London; (his estate sale, at his residence, Covent Garden, London, 18 April 1682, fifth item on list); purchased by Anthony Grey, 11th earl of Kent [1645-1702]; by descent in his family to Thomas Philip Robinson, 2nd earl De Grey of Wrest and 5th baron Lucas of Crudwell [1781-1859], Wrest Park, Ampthill, Bedfordshire; by descent in his family to Nan Ino Herbert Cooper, 10th baroness Lucas of Crudwell [1880-1958], The Hall, Horsey, Norfolk, and Struy Lodge, Beauly, Highland, Scotland; (Lucas sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 16 November 1917, no. 123); purchased by Smith. Freiherr Detlev von Hadeln [1878-1935], Venice. (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence); sold 1954 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
- Loan to display with permanent collection, Birmingham (Alabama) Museum of Art, 2003-2014.
The support consists of a twill-weave, medium-weight fabric. The painting has been lined and the tacking margins have been removed, with consequent damage along all four sides. It also appears from x-radiographs and examination with a stereomicroscope that the ground is either very thin or nonexistent. The sky and background were apparently painted prior to the addition of the figure, and the paint was applied unusually thinly, with impasto restricted to the yellow highlights and some of the white on the saint’s drapery.
The paint surface shows medium to heavy abrasion throughout and numerous scattered losses. Conservation treatment in 1986 involved the removal of extensive discolored retouching and overpaint, followed by extensive inpainting to match areas of original paint. Also removed at this time was a small branch above the saint’s head, which was found to be a complete addition.
Peter Humfrey and Joanna Dunn based on the examination reports by Ann Hoenigswald, Jia-sun Tsang, and Carolyn Tallent
March 21, 2019
- Catalogue of Pictures Belonging to Thomas Philip Earl de Grey at his house in St. James's Square. Privately printed, London, 1834: n.p., no. 116.
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