Saint Jerome In His Study
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

In 1521, while the German artist Albrecht Dürer was in Antwerp, he painted a picture of Saint Jerome in his study surrounded by objects symbolizing transience and death. The painting was a sensation, prefiguring the genre of memento mori, images that compelled contemplation of mortality. The type became a specialty of local workshops, including that of Joos van Cleve, who is associated with more than a dozen versions of this image.

The piece of paper tacked to the wall reads “Respice Finem” — consider the end. Grasping his head, Jerome points at a skull, whose craggy surface is rendered in detail. Beside him is a snuffed-out candle. Beyond such obvious symbols of death, the image is filled with subtler reminders of the passage of time. The crucifix, set above an Italianate ornamental frieze, casts a curved shadow on its niche, and next to it, a bird — possibly a finch, symbol of Christ’s Passion — is trapped in a cage.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1961.26
People
Joos van Cleve, Netherlandish (c. 1485/1490 - 1540-1541)
Title
Saint Jerome in His Study
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1521
Places
Creation Place: Europe, Belgium, Antwerp
Culture
Netherlandish
Location
Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on panel
Dimensions
99.7 x 83.8 cm (39 1/4 x 33 in.)
frame: 126 x 109.7 cm (49 5/8 x 43 3/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: dated behind ornamental frieze: 1521
Provenance
Joseph Warren, by descent; to Joseph Warren, Jr., 1946, by descent; to Howland Warren, Nahant, Massachusetts, Dr. Richard Warren, Dedham, Massachusetts, and Mrs. Grayson M. P. Murphy, New York, New York, 1957, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1961.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Howland Warren, Dr. Richard P. Warren, and Mrs. Grayson M.P. Murphy
Accession Year
1961
Object Number
1961.26
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

R. Bruce Livie, Auch Kleine Dinge: Dürer and the Decorative Tradition, exh. cat., Busch-Reisinger Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1971), cat. no. 15, repr.

John Oliver Hand, Joos van Cleve and the Saint Jerome in the Norton Gallery and School of Art, Norton Gallery Studies, Norton Gallery and School of Art (Palm Beach, FL, 1972), fig. 4, repr.

Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 411, repr. p. 412 as pl. VI

Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), pp. 14, 46, repr. p. 47

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 364, p. 306, repr.

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 44, color plate; pp. 102, 173, repr. b/w cat. no. 109

Laura Giles, "'Christ before Pilate': A Major Composition Study by Pontormo", Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1991), vol. XVII, no. 1

William K. Storey, Writing History: a guide for Harvard's sophomore history concentrators, Elena Prentice (Cambridge, MA, 1996), cover page

Susan Foister and Ashok Roy, Making & Meaning: Holbein's Ambassadors, National Gallery Publications/Yale University Press (London, England, 1997), p. 55, fig. no. 57

Helene E. Roberts, ed., Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers (Chicago, 1998), repr. on cover of both volumes

Ivan Gaskell, "The Image of Vanitas: Efflorescence and Evanescence", exh. cat., Merrell Holberton (London, England, 1999), p. 187; repr. in color p. 186

John Oliver Hand, Joos van Cleve: The Complete Paintings, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven, CT and London, 2004), no. 78, pp. 92-95, 161-162, repr. as fig. 95

Exhibition History

Auch Kleine Dinge: Dürer and the Decorative Tradition, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 03/04/1971 - 04/03/1971

Acquisition in Context: The Adoration Triptych by the Master of 1518, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/28/1991 - 01/19/1992

Northern European Art from 1450 to 1550, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/13/1994 - 02/05/1995

Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu