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Giovanni Bellini, Saint Jerome reading in a Landscape

Key facts
Full title Saint Jerome reading in a Landscape
Artist Giovanni Bellini
Artist dates about 1435 - 1516
Date made about 1480-5
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 46.8 × 33.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1855
Inventory number NG281
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Saint Jerome reading in a Landscape
Giovanni Bellini

An elderly man, barefoot and with an impressive grey beard, is perched on a rock, engrossed in a book. This is Saint Jerome, translator of the Bible into Latin. His only companion is an endearing lion which lies peaceably in the corner – he had tamed it by removing a thorn from its paw.

Bellini painted this subject several times, always using landscape and dramatic lighting to convey meaning. Cliffs tower around Jerome, cutting him off from civilisation (represented by the walled city in the background). A bright light falls on the saint and on the distant towers, but the landscape between them is plunged in shadow.

Recent technical study has confirmed that the painting is by Bellini himself, rather than a follower. Jerome’s head is painted with great attention to detail, and if you look closely you can see the individual brushstrokes in his hair and beard.

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