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Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, Saint Jerome

Key facts
Full title Saint Jerome
Artist Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo
Artist dates about 1480 - about 1548
Date made about 1525-30
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 121 × 160.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3092
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saint Jerome
Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo

Saint Jerome kneels against a rocky ledge in the wilderness contemplating the crucified Christ. Savoldo was particularly admired for his depictions of dawn and dusk and the dramatic lighting effects they produced. The painting is signed on the rock below the open book: ‘Giovanni Girolamo of Brescia, of the Savoldo family, made this.’

Saint Jerome spent four years living as a hermit in the desert, where he beat his chest when tempted by sinful thoughts. Here, his arm appears to swing out of the painting towards us as he prepares to beat himself in penitence. His other hand seems to grasp the air in anticipation of the blow, his arm boldly foreshortened.

The large church in the distance might be SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Venice, near where Savoldo was living in 1532. This may be the painting of Saint Jerome that Giovan Paolo Averoldi of Brescia commissioned Savoldo to paint in Venice in 1527.

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