SAINT JEROME – Caravaggio 1606
The striking features of this painting are the illusionistic representation of the still life on the table and the impact of the red cloak enveloping the white haired figure of the saint. Poring over the volumes of the holy scripture and engaged in an exegetical task, as the quill pen painted with a single brush stroke indicates, Saint Jerome is portrayed not as a penitent, as is often the case, but rather as a scholar. His head counterbalanced by the skull, he is intent on the reading and annotation of the secret passages, and symbolically counters the futility of the worldly goods. The Caravaggesque rendering of the figure of Saint Jerome – one of the four doctors of the church, he was often portrayed in the counterreformation – was particularly popular with the Neapolitan painters of the 17th hundred. Because of the rapid execution, with irregularities in the rendering of the beard and the outlines of the books and cloak, it has been suggested that the work is unfinished. Long brush strokes are visible on the white cloth hanging over the edge of the table.
Executed for the Cardinal Scipione, this painting was attributed to Caravaggio in the inventory of 1693. Most historians seem to agree that the work should be dated to the end of the artists Roman period which is 1606