• St Jerome
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St Jerome

Object type
131,9 x 106,8 cm
Acquisition date
The Palace on the Isle - Picture Gallery, ground floor
Marks and inscriptions
red number 1882 of the Stanisław August collection, bottom left
Place of Origin
Italy (Europe)
National Museum in Warsaw
Acquisition name
deposit; inv. no. M.Ob.2366
Museum number
Dep 935
More parametrów obiektu

St Jerome (c. 347–419 or 420), one of the Doctors of the Church, author of the translation of the Bible into Latin which became known as the Vulgate, Biblical exegete, patron saint of translators, librarians and encyclopaedists, is shown as a hermit: deep in prayer, kneeling with a wall of rocks in the background, with a book, skull and cardinal’s hat (on the rock shelf to the left). …

The attribution to Spada, previously widely-accepted, was undermined in a monograph of the artist published in 2002 (E. Monducci, E. Negro, M. Pirondini, N. Roio, Leonello Spada 1576–1622, Manerba su Garda 2002, p. 217, no. 12). Emilio Negro and Nicosetta Roio—the authors in the catalogue-part of the publication—excluded the Łazienki St Jerome from a 156 piece catalogue of accepted works and included it in those of uncertain attribution. According to the Italian scholars, the author of the Łazienki painting was part of a different artistic culture, dating later than the Bolognese classicism of Guido Reni.

As pointed out by Richard E. Spear, the art of Spada, the only Bolognese artist to be so heavily influenced by Caravaggio, was however, never devoid of Reniesque classicist roots (which is why he cannot be included among the Caravaggionists sensu stricto; R.E. Spear, Caravaggio and His Followers, exh. cat., Cleveland , The Cleveland Museum of Art., 1971, revised edition: New York–Los Angeles 1975, p. 166). This feature is indeed difficult to find in the Łazienki painting.

In Spada’s work we can find a similar type of portrayal of an old man as that of St Jerome in the Łazienki: e.g. in the Return of the Prodigal Son in the Louvre (inv. no. 677 … ) or in the Madonna of Loreto with Saints in the Basilica of the Madonna della Ghiara in Reggio Emilia (with the collaboration of the studio; Monducci et al. 2002, p. 67). From a typological perspective, however, the painter’s depictions of St Jerome—in the Basilica di San Domenico in Bologna and in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome (inv. no. 2218) (see Monducci et al. 2002, nos. 55 and 56) are quite different. This subject was painted several times by Spada—however, none of the depictions of St Jerome in the detailed list of his lost works (or known from the sources) drawn up in the monograph of 2002 can be identified with the St Jerome in the Łazienki (cf. Monducci et al. 2002, pp. 196–97, 199–200, 211 and 213). … [D. Juszczak, H. Małachowicz, The Stanisław August Collection of Paintings at the Royal Łazienki. Catalogue, Royal Łazienki Museum, Warsaw 2016, no. 99, pp. 365–367.]

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