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Saint Jerome
Girolamo Romanino
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This painting is part of Romanino’s high altarpiece for S. Alessandro in Brescia. It is situated to the right of the main panel of the Nativity and shows the theologian, priest and historian, Saint Jerome (347–420), who lived in Constantinople and Rome.

Saint Jerome holds a Crucifix and beats his chest with a stone as penance for his sinful thoughts. The Cross is formed from rough sticks, but the body of Christ is flesh coloured and spots of blood can be seen on the hands, hair, feet and side. The lion at Jerome’s feet is one of his attributes and refers to the legend that he befriended a lion while living in the desert.

There is no reason obvious to us today for why Saint Jerome was chosen for this altarpiece. The other three saints represented all had specific connections to the church, so Saint Jerome must have had some special significance of which we are now unaware.

Key facts
Artist Girolamo Romanino
Artist dates about 1484 - about 1560
Full title Saint Jerome
Group High Altarpiece, S. Alessandro, Brescia
Date made about 1524
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 159.1 x 64.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1857
Inventory number NG297.3
Location in Gallery Room 2
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High Altarpiece, S. Alessandro, Brescia

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Romanino made this painting for the high altar of Sant' Alessandro in Brescia. It may have been commissioned by the Confraternity of Corpus Christi – a lay brotherhood which venerated the body of Christ – who were responsible for the high altar.

The central panel shows the Nativity, with Mary and Joseph kneeling before the infant Christ. On either side, panels depict Saint Alexander (lower left) and Saint Jerome (lower right). Above them are Saint Gaudioso (upper left) and Saint Filippo Benizzi (upper right.)

The painting originally had a crowning panel of the dead Saviour supported by the Virgin and Saint John. It also had large canvas shutters to protect it – The Annunciation was painted on the outside of the shutters, and on the inside was The Adoration of the Magi. The elaborate frame of the altarpiece, made by the woodcarver Stefano Lamberti, which would have formed a fundamental part of it, is now missing.

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