ID number: BIRBI-49.1
Institution: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker: Bellini, Giovanni (c.1430-1516)
Title / Object name: St. Jerome in the Wilderness
Object type: Painting
Place made: Venice
Date made: about 1460
Materials: Tempera on wood
Measurements: 44 x 29.9 cm, 52 x 38 x 7.9cm as framed
Provenance: D. Goodyear, Gloucester; his sale, Christie's Auction House, London, 6 June 1856 (lot 537), unsold; Christie's Auction House, London, 12 June 1863 (lot 59), purchased by the 6th Earl of Southesk; by descent, Southesk collection; Christie's Auction House, London, 23 July 1948 (lot 42); Agnew's, 1949; purchased by the Barber Institute, 1949 for £7,700.
Saint Jerome (died 419) was a scholar who translated the Bible into Latin. He also retired to the wilderness and lived the secluded of a hermit. According to legend, he removed a thorn from the paw of a lion who then became his companion. Here, Jerome exchanges the scholar’s study for a cave. Beyond is a sunlit landscape full of closely-observed natural details representing the comfortable life he has forsaken and the future he will gain. Throughout the quattrocento and the earliest years of the cinquecento, the image of the penitent Saint Jerome was widespread in the painting of the Veneto and the Po region, in particular on small panels made for private devotion.
Giovanni Bellini's originality as an artist results from his pictures of Sain Jerome in the Wilderness, which are entirely his invention and differ from the mainstream iconography as a variant with Venetian overtones. They seem to have been destined for urban collectors, whom they addressed with a dream of an alternative life lived in the nature.
Giovanni Bellini played a crucial role in the development of Venetian painting, introducing a glowing use of colour and a new feeling for landscape.
Since its rediscovery in the 19th century, this painting has generally been considered one of Bellini's very first efforts. Opinions on the date of its execution vary, ranging from 1445 to about 1460.
Inscriptions / Translations: Signed on cartellino: IHOVANES BELINVS
This is an otherwise unknown form of the artist's signature.
Notes: Exhibited: 'Mostra di Giovanni Bellini', Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Italy, 1949 (no.24); 'The Age of Titian', National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK, 04 August 2004 - 05 December 2004 (no. 2); 'Giovanni Bellini', Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, Italy, 30 September 2008 - 11 January 2009 (no. 2); 'Landscapes of Faith: Giovanni Bellini in Renaissance Venice', The Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA, 10 October 2017-14 January 2018, 'Mantegna and Bellini', National Gallery, London, 1 October 2018 - 27 January 2019 then toured to Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, 1 March 2019 - 30 June 2019