“Saint Jerome in the desert”, Jacopo Bassano – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

Saint Jerome in the desert – Jacopo Bassano. Around 1560. Oil on canvas. 119×154
Jacopo da Ponte, nicknamed by the name of the town in which, apart from his youth, when he studied in Venice, spent his whole life, was still popular in Serenissima. And so, specifically to him, Veronese sent his own offspring as a student. This dramatic composition also enjoyed success, the appearance of which coincided with the era of the counter-reformation — the spiritual search for new meanings of religious experience, steadfastness in resisting temptations, “free knowledge”, and personal responsibility.

In the image Jerome, the holy character of Christian history, the author of interpretations and polemical works, the translator, it was customary to emphasize his remoteness from worldly vanity, from populated places. Jerome lived for four years as a hermit in the Chalkidian desert near the Syrian city of Antioch. According to legend, he tortured himself before the crucifixion with stone punches in the chest during tempting visions. In the desert, he studied the Hebrew language. In Rome, he was secretary and assistant to Pope Damas I. It was on behalf of the pontiff that he translated the books of the Old Testament, also the Gospel, from Hebrew to Latin. In 1546, at the Council of Trent, this translation of the Bible was declared canonical and was called “vulgate.” Vulgates traditionally depict a saint as an author with a book, sometimes working in an office.

Jacopo Bassano shows a repentant old man in a cave, with a stone in his hand, in front of an open book. Another attribute in the iconography of Jerome is the skull. However, here he is not “by the rules” (under a book, like the skull of a first person) located next to him in the foreground, illuminated by the same mystical light from the half-darkness, as the exhausted, but not at all ascetic body of the old man. Crucifixion looks absolutely wonderful. The God-man, nailed to the cross, is written as if alive, as if the viewer, as a scientist and righteous Jerome, from afar, but the event itself appears firsthand."

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