The sources for this painting are two works by Albrecht Dürer: a painting of Saint Jerome, 1521 (Museo de Arte Antigua, Lisbon) which uses both the same half-length format and melancholy pose of the saint and objects symbolic of death and judgment; and an engraving of Saint Jerome in his study, 1514, its influence being the candlestick holding an extinguished candle. The present painting is also based on a work by Joos van Cleve in which the composition is borrowed from the painting by Dürer and works by Marinus van Reymerswaele. The present work is very close to a painting by Cleve offered for sale at Christie's, London, 22 April 1994, lot 4: see M. Friedlander, 'Early Netherlandish Painting', vol.IX, for examples by Joos van Cleve. The skull is on its side in the van Cleve and in the Wellcome example.
Saint Jerome is shown as a scholar at work in his study. The scholarly objects in the painting are chosen to signify the saint’s significance as a theologian, while the guttering candle and the skull encourage the viewer to meditate on the vanity of worldly things and the inevitability of death.
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