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Saint Jerome
Carlo Crivelli
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This bearded cardinal once stood at the left side of a small altarpiece that Crivelli painted for a side chapel in the church of San Domenico, in Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. This is Saint Jerome, one of the Fathers of the Church and a favourite saint of the Dominican Order as a defender of the Catholic faith against heresy.

He is lost in contemplation, gazing down at the small brick church he holds in his left hand. In his right hand he holds a bound book of the Bible, which he had translated into Latin; golden rays emanating from the church’s door and window stand for the light his works cast on Church doctrine. At his feet, a tame lion sits on the edge of his robes, gazing up in trusting expectation and raising its paw, which is pierced by a long thorn; Jerome was supposed to have removed it.

Key facts
Artist Carlo Crivelli
Artist dates about 1430/5 - about 1494
Full title Saint Jerome
Series Four Panels from an Altarpiece, Ascoli Piceno
Date made about 1476
Medium and support Tempera on poplar
Dimensions 91 x 26 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1868
Inventory number NG788.10
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Four Panels from an Altarpiece, Ascoli Piceno

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These panels came from an altarpiece which Crivelli painted for a side chapel in the Dominican church at Ascoli Piceno, in the Italian Marche. The saints are identifiable by their attributes: Saint Michael, Prince of Archangels, fighting the devil; Saint Jerome, one of the Doctors of the Church, with his tame lion; Saint Peter Martyr, the second saint of the Dominican Order, a knife buried in his skull; and Saint Lucy, with her eyes on a wooden dish. The choice of saints must have had a special meaning to the original patron.

Although we don’t know who commissioned this polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece), plainly no expense was spared. The saints’ haloes and damask backgrounds would have sparkled and flickered in the candlelight of the Middle Ages, and lit the church with a glittering golden glow.

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