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The painter chose to represent Saint Jerome in a corner of his scriptorium, symbolizing the retreat from the affairs of the world. Other symbols of his detachment from worldly values are the skull – a sign of the vanity and transience of all worldly things – and the cardinal’s hat, pushed back from his head, signifying contempt for hierarchical rank. The paraphernalia of work in a scriptorium is spread out on the table, in front of him: inkwell, chalk powder and metal pen (stylus). The labour of translating the Bible is under way (suggested by the presence of the manuscript of one of Saint Paul’s epistles) and fairly close to completion, for the codex in front of him is open to a miniature representing the scene of The Ascension – possibly the end of the Gospel of Mark or Luke. What immediately impresses the viewer of this painting, giving it a particular feel, is a sense of miracle, in accordance with the Protestant belief that the only source of divine revelation is the Bible.
Saint Jerome is experiencing revelation, in no way different from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that was granted to biblical authors; his eyes focus on other-worldly things and his upraised right hand suggests the acknowledgement of a mysterious, divine whisper. The painting is flooded by light and yet his candle has gone out and the floating folds of the loincloth of the Christ figure on wooden crucifix facing him suggest the unfolding miracle. ©Dana Roxana Hrib, European Art Gallery Guidebook, Second edition, Sibiu 2011.

Details

  • Title: Saint Jerome in His Study
  • Creator: Marinus van Reymerswaele
  • Date: c. 1545
  • Physical Dimensions: w82.5 x h84.3 cm (Without frame)
  • Photo copyright: ©Christof Weber
  • Collecting: Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania
  • Artist Biography: This Dutch artist, a graduate of the University of Louvain, learned the art of painting in Antwerp and spent the best part of his life in Reymerswaele, a small town in Zeeland, Holland. Marinus’s style followed the spirit of Flemish Mannerism, most of his themes being taken from the immediate social reality of his times; the relatively narrow range of his subjects mostly deals with depicting the world of lawyers’ offices as well as banks and financial institutions. The type of painting resulting evinced an evidently satirical intent, derived from the spirit of Erasmus, in an artistic manner akin to that of Quinten Massys. On the other hand, his line drawing was characterized as heavy, aggressive, almost expressionistic, displaying an intensity and force of penetration that is clearly under the influence of Albrecht Dürer. ©Dana Roxana Hrib, European Art Gallery Guidebook, Second edition, Sibiu 2011.
  • Provenance: Brukenthal National Museum
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on wood

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