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Domenichino, The Vision of Saint Jerome

Key facts
Full title The Vision of Saint Jerome
Artist Domenichino
Artist dates 1581 - 1641
Date made before 1603
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 51.1 × 39.8 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG85
Location Room 37
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Vision of Saint Jerome

An elderly but muscular man with an impressive beard sits in a rocky landscape. Beside him is a pile of books, on top of which sits a skull wearing a cardinal’s hat. He leans on a second pile, and points to the text of an open volume resting on a rocky ledge. This is the fourth-century scholar and hermit Saint Jerome, who produced the standard Latin translation of the Bible known as the Vulgate.

Jerome was especially important during the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic Church undertook a series of reforms in response to the Protestant Reformation. In 1546 the Council of Trent, a meeting of the Church’s ruling body, declared the Vulgate the official translation of the Bible. The angel flying down from the top left corner does not relate to a specific incident but shows that Jerome was divinely inspired.

This is the earliest surviving documented picture by Domenichino: it was recorded in the collection of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini in 1603.

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