St Jerome in his study
24 May 1471 - 05 Apr 1528
St Jerome, who produced the Latin vulgate version of the bible, occupies the end of the room. By Dürer’s time Jerome had, as a scholar and a Latinist, become an iconic figure for the humanists. Bent over his small writing desk which is placed on a larger table together with a crucifix and a pot of ink. Suspended from the wall behind him is the cardinal’s hat (a traditional attribute, although Jerome never in fact became a cardinal). Dressed in a simple habit rather than the vestment usually befitting a doctor of the Church, Jerome is a modest scholar filled with divine illumination as he translates the word of God. The radiance of his halo outshines the brilliance of the daylight. It is virtually the only part of the engraving where the paper is left untouched by the work of the burin.
Dürer represented St Jerome in prints on five occasions, however this was his last rendition of the theme. The date of 1514 is also that of the publication of the translation of St Jerome’s biography by Dürer’s friend Lazarus Spengler.
Together with 'Melencolia I' and 'Knight, Death and the Devil', these three engravings have long been known as the ‘Master Engravings’. With these works Dürer attained the height of his capacities as an engraver. Aside from their technical sophistication, the prints are also connected by their near identical format and their concentration of a single figure in a highly complex, richly symbolic environment. The prints have been interpreted as representing three different modes of virtuous living, with St Jerome symbolising the solitary, contemplative and self-fulfilled life of the man of letters.
24.8 x 19.0 cm trimmed to platemark; 52.1 x 46.3 x 4.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Printed date and monogram, within image, lower right 1514/AD.
The Estate of James O Fairfax AC
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
The James Fairfax collection of old master paintings, drawings and prints, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Apr 2003–20 Jul 2003
Referenced in 1 publication
The James Fairfax collection of old master paintings, drawings and prints, Sydney, 2003, p 80, no 20, illus p 81.