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Cosimo Tura, Saint Jerome

Key facts
Full title Saint Jerome
Artist Cosimo Tura
Artist dates before 1431 - 1495
Date made probably about 1470
Medium and support Oil and egg on poplar
Dimensions 101 × 57.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1867
Inventory number NG773
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Jerome
Cosimo Tura

Saint Jerome spent two years in the desert, living a life of poverty and self-denial. As a punishment for sinful thoughts, he would – as we see here – beat his body until it bled. He was originally shown looking towards a vision of Christ, arms outstretched on a cross made of beams of light. This fragment is now in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

The painting may have been commissioned as inspiration for a Franciscan confraternity whose members, like Saint Jerome, practised self-flagellation, with the aim of bringing themselves closer to Christ through imitation of his sufferings. Their founder, Saint Francis, is visible in the background kneeling beside a man in a red tunic, probably the panel’s patron.

Tura’s underdrawing is visible beneath the paint surface. He used multiple parallel strokes to indicate areas in shadow, applying a dark wash over the top, and – unusual in an underdrawing – used touches of white paint to highlight areas that catch the light.

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