Jerome the scholar

Jerome's reputation in the church is that of a scholar; although his theology was (and is) regarded as conventional, his particular gift was translation. He began learning Hebrew during his time in the desert, and studied it, with the help of Jewish scholars, all his life. His written output was prodigious, and, inevitably, not all of it remains. Apart from his translations of the books of the Bible, he wrote extensive commentaries of them, and many lively, polemical letters that frequently got him into trouble. 
   Most images of Jerome the scholar show him working away in his study, often with his lion in attendance. This very early image shows him handing out copies, presumably of his Bible translation, to eager monks. 

From the First Bible of Charles the Bald (9th century)
Bibliotheque Nationale, France

This well known early image by Master Theoderic shows an apparently rather short-sighted Jerome; although the artist probably didn't know it, this rings rather true as Jerome suffered with eyesight problems all his life.

National Gallery, Prague

   Here are two images of Jerome in his study, by Van Eyck and Antonella da Messina. In my view the Antonella is the finer of the two; when you see it in the National Gallery in London you are surprised just how small it is, and yet the detail, and the authority and stillness of the Jerome figure, are remarkable. The Van Eyck is full of fascinating detail too, but I'm not entirely convinced by Jerome's expression; he looks as if he has settled down to read the Sunday papers. 

Van Eyck
Institute of Arts, Detroit

Antonella da Messina
National Gallery, London

   Domenico Ghirlandaio's rather cross-looking Jerome is writing rather than reading. The spectacles are a nice, if anachronistic, touch.

Fresco, Ognissanti, Florence

    In 1522 Luther had been busy translating the bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into German, and this did not go down well with the Catholic church.  Artists were commissioned to present the message that  Jerome's text was divinely inspired, so don't mess with it!
    Guido Reni's dramatic scene from around 1635, with Jerome receiving guidance from an angel, is a typical counter-reformation image. Even more so is the busy painting by Correggio from around a hundred years earlier, in which Jesus himself is shown the Vulgate and gives his approval.

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

St Jerome with the Madonna and child and Mary Magdalene
Galleria Nazionale, Parma

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