Saint Jerome

This picture of Saint Jerome is from an altarpiece; it probably served as the central panel. It has been cut at the top. Jerome's vision of the Crucifixion originally appeared in the sky and this portion of the painting is now in the Brera, Milan.

Saint Jerome is shown beating his breast with a stone while praying. This refers to the two years he spent in the desert of Chalcis (376-8) repenting of his sins. The lion, one of the saint's attributes, is on the left. According to legend, Jerome befriended the lion by pulling a thorn out of its paw. The other animals may symbolise evil or simply suggest the wilderness. The wall-creeper and the owl may symbolise evil (the owl's nocturnal habits were sometimes associated with sin) or may simply suggest the desert setting.

The kneeling figure is a donor. Behind him is Saint Francis with his hands extended to receive the stigmata, perhaps from the Crucifixion towards which Jerome also turns. The painting is likely to have been made for a Franciscan foundation.

Key facts

Artist dates
before 1431 - 1495
Full title
Saint Jerome
Date made
probably about 1470
Medium and support
Oil and egg on poplar
101 x 57.2 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1867
Inventory number
Location in Gallery