Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471 - 1528 Nuremberg)
Saint Jerome in his Study
B. 60; Meder 59a; Panofsky 167
Monogrammed and dated on tablet within image, at right: 1514 / AD
9 5/8 x 7 3/8 in. (24.4 x 18.8 cm)
Gift of Mrs. F. F. Prentiss, 1944
One of the greatest of biblical scholars, Jerome was noted for his authorship of the Vulgate, a revised Latin translation of the Bible. Dürer's remarkably peaceful, ordered image of the saint in his study expresses the appeal of this Christian scholar par excellence among contemporary Renaissance humanists.
Jerome (ca. 342-420) was the most learned of the Latin fathers of the church and among the greatest of biblical scholars. From 382-85 he served as secretary to Pope Damasus I, who directed him to revise the Latin version of the New Testament. Jerome continued his biblical work after founding a religious community at Bethlehem in 386; virtually all of the Latin Bible (known as the Vulgate) was either translated from Hebrew and Greek or reworked by him.
The appeal of Saint Jerome among Renaissance humanists is reflected in the fact that Dürer created more images of this scholarly saint than of any other in his graphic oeuvre.1 In the engraving of 1514, Dürer portrayed the saint as an exemplar of the Christian scholar: humbly clad in monk's robes, he hunches over his writing table within a simple but comfortable and profoundly serene cell. On the rear wall of the chamber hangs a cardinal's hat, an ahistorical reference to Jerome's papal appointment. A lion, legendary companion of the saint, drowses in the foreground, guarding access to the chamber; a dog sleeps peacefully by the lion's side. The ever present threat of death and the transience of human existence, symbolized by the hourglass on the rear wall and the skull on the windowsill, is lessened by the spiritual contemplation of eternity, here expressed in Saint Jerome's total absorption in his divine task, and the small crucifix placed at the corner of his desk.
Peter Parshall has demonstrated that the large pear-shaped gourd suspended from a rafter at the upper right is a veiled reference to a famous philological debate that occupied Jerome for more than a decade.2 In his translation of the Bible, Jerome chose to translate a Hebrew term for a plant mentioned in the Old Testament story of Jonah (kikayon) as the Latin hedera, a type of ivy, rather than the more commonly accepted cucurbita, or gourd. This led to a prolonged and sometimes acrimonious scholarly debate with Saint Augustine (354-430), who strongly disagreed with Jerome on this point. Although the gourd translation had long been accepted over Jerome's ivy, even in Dürer's day the intellectual debate was continually cited by humanists as a testament to Jerome's erudition and critical scholarship.
Dürer's Saint Jerome in his Study has often been interpreted in conjunction with two other master engravings (Meisterstiche) by the artist, also from 1513-14- Knight, Death and the Devil (1513; AMAM inv. 44.29), and Melencolia (1514)--and viewed especially as a spiritual (if not formal) pendant to the latter work.3
Weber suggested that the Saint Jerome and Melencolia corresponded to the traditional scholastic divisions of secular and divine knowledge; and that Saint Jerome, who consciously relinquished the former for the latter, was the perfect example of divinely inspired erudition.4 Panofsky further contrasted the brooding angst and disordered surroundings of the tormented genius in Melencolia with the peaceful diligence and ordered efficiency of Saint Jerome; the Saint Jerome "opposes a life in the service of God to what may be called [in the Melencolia] a life in competition with God."5
In contrast to these two antithetical aspects of the contemplative life, Knight, Death, and the Devil represents the life of the Christian in "the practical world of decision and action."6
Whether or not Dürer's Meisterstiche were conceived as a set, they are well matched in style, size, and technical complexity, and represent the pinnacle of the artist's achievement as an engraver. The Saint Jerome is remarkable for the range of tones achieved through exceptionally delicate burin work; the precise yet expressive linear perspective; and the flickering sunlight which plays over the forms, activating surfaces and differentiating textures as disparate as stone, cloth, and soft fur. In his brief account of Dürer's work in The Lives of the Artists, Vasari singled out Dürer's virtuoso depiction of light entering the saint's chamber in this engraving as especially worthy of praise.7
M. E. Wieseman
Born in Nuremberg in 1471, Albrecht Dürer was the son of the goldsmith Albrecht Dürer the Elder (1427-1502); his godfather, Anton Koberger, was the leading German publisher of his day. The young Dürer trained with his father, then was apprenticed to Michel Wolgemut, a painter and designer of woodcuts, from 1486 to 1489. Between 1490 and 1494, Dürer traveled through Germany and Switzerland; he visited Venice and other cities in Italy from autumn 1494 to spring 1495, then returned to settle in Nuremberg. He visited Italy again between 1505 and 1507. In 1509, Dürer purchased a house in Nuremberg and became a member of the Greater Council, marks of his increased prosperity and social standing. Dürer received commissions for several projects from the Emperor Maximilian I, who granted the artist an annuity in 1515. This honor was continued by his successor, Charles V. After Maximilian's death in 1519, Dürer's activities in the Netherlands in 1520-21 are described in a detailed travel diary; towards the end of his life he also wrote theoretical treatises on proportion ( Underweysung der Messung, 1525; Bücher von menschlicher Proportion, 1528) and fortifications (Befestigungslehre, 1527).
Prolific and highly original, Dürer produced paintings, drawings, engravings, etchings, woodcuts, and drypoints with equal facility and technical brilliance. His international reputation was primarily the result of his activity as an engraver and woodcut designer, however. His early training as a goldsmith and metal engraver focused his attention on the untapped artistic potential of the printed image; his knowledge of publishing fostered an awareness of the wide public audience for prints. Dürer endowed traditional devotional images with superior artistry, transforming them from textual accompaniments and objects of everyday use to independent works of art suitable for collecting.
Meder, Joseph. Dürer-Katalog, ein Handbuch über Dürers Stiche, Radierungen, Holzschnitte, deren Zustände, Ausgeben und Wasserzeichen. Vienna, 1932.
Winkler, Friedrich. Die Zeichnungen Albrecht Dürers. 4 vols. Berlin, 1936-39.
Panofsky, Erwin. The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer. 4th ed. Princeton, 1955.
The Writings of Albrecht Dürer. Translated by William M. Conway. London, 1958.
Anzelewsky, Fedja. Albrecht Dürer: Das malerische Werk. Berlin, 1971.
Hutchison, Jane Campbell. Albrecht Dürer: A Biography. Princeton, 1990.
Purchased from Frederick Keppel & Co., New York, 16 September 1914 (for $1500)
Collection Mrs. F. F. Prentiss, Cleveland, by whom bequeathed in 1944
The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1971. Albrecht Dürer. 16 February - 28 March (also shown at Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum). No cat.
Bartsch, Adam. Le Peintre-graveur. Vol. 7. Vienna, 1808. B. 60.
Dodgson, Campbell. Albrecht Dürer, Engravings and Etchings. London, 1926; reprint New York, 1967. Dodgson 74.
Meder, Joseph. Dürer-Katalog, ein Handbuch über Dürers Stiche, Radierungen, Holzschnitte, deren Zustände, Ausgeben und Wasserzeichen. Vienna, 1932. Meder 59.
Panofsky, Erwin. Albrecht Dürer. Vol. 2. London and Princeton, 1943, rev. ed., 1948. Panofsky 167.
Hollstein, F. W. H. German Engravings, Etchings, and Woodcuts. Edited by Karel G. Boon. Vol. 7. Amsterdam, 1962. H. 59.
Sixteenth Century German Artists. Albrecht Dürer. In Strauss, Walter L., ed. The Illustrated Bartsch. Vol. 10. New York, 1981, cat. no. 60.
General Literature (mentioning print but not this impression):
Weber, Paul. Beiträge zu Dürers Weltanschauing: Eine Studie über die drei Stiche "Ritter, Tod und Teufel," "Melencolia," und "Hieronymus im Gehäus." Strasbourg, 1900, esp. pp. 47-52, 60-61.
von Strümpell, Adolf. "Hieronymus im Gehäuse." Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft 2 (1927), p. 173.
Panofsky, Erwin. Albrecht Dürer. London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed. 1948, vol. 1, pp. 154-56, and vol. 2, cat. no. 167.
Parshall, Peter W. "Albrecht Dürer's St. Jerome in his Study: A Philological Reference." The Art Bulletin 53 (September 1971), pp. 303-5.
Reed, Sue W. In Albrecht Dürer, Master Printmaker. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1971-72, pp. 219-23, cat. nos. 186-87.
Kauffmann, Georg. In Albrecht Dürer 1471-1971. Exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 1971, p. 157, cat. no. 273.
Levenson, Jay A. In Dürer in America: His Graphic Work. Edited by Charles W. Talbot. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., 1971, pp. 146-47, cat. no. 60.
Behling, Lottlisa. "Eine 'ampel'-artige Pflanze von Albrecht Dürer. Cucurbita lagenaria L. auf dem Hieronymusstich von 1514." Pantheon 30 (1972), pp. 396ff.
Strauss, Walter L. Albrecht Dürer Intaglio Prints: Engravings, Etchings & Drypoints. New York, 1975, pp. 118-20, cat. no. 77.
Friedmann, Herbert. A Bestiary for Saint Jerome: Animal Symbolism in European Religious Art. Washington, D. C., 1980, pp. 101-14.
Gottlieb, Carla. The Window in Art: From the Window of God to the Vanity of Man. New York, 1981, pp. 234-37.
Sixteenth Century German Artists. Albrecht Dürer (Commentary). In The Illustrated Bartsch. Edited by Walter L. Strauss. Vol. 10. New York, 1981, pp. 138-42, cat. no. 60.
Weis, Adolf. "'...diese lächerliche Kürbisfrage...': Christlicher Humanismus in Dürers Hieronymusbild." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 45 (1982), pp. 195-201.
Schoch, Rainer. In Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg 1300-1550. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986, pp. 314-15.
The Oberlin impression of Saint Jerome in his Study is an excellent, early Meder "a" impression, with burr and clean surface, and no visible watermark. The sheet has been trimmed on all sides to just outside the image, but is otherwise in excellent condition with only minor staining on the verso. There are several unidentified collectors' marks on the verso, all in graphite: "FWOX," "A 78456," "G," and "VC / I / R." The delicate, silvery quality of the ink is characteristic of early impressions of this engraving.
1. In addition to the engraving of 1514, these are: Saint Jerome in his Study (woodcut, 1492; Willi Kurth, The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, intro. Campbell Dodgson [London, 1927; reprint New York, 1963], pp. 10-11, cat. no. 22); Saint Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness (engraving, ca. 1496; B. 61, Meder 57), Saint Jerome in his Study (woodcut, 1511; B. 114); Saint Jerome in a Cave (woodcut, 1512; B. 113); and Saint Jerome by a Pollard Willow (drypoint, 1512; B. 59, Meder 58).
2. Peter W. Parshall, "Albrecht Dürer's Saint Jerome in his Study: A Philological Reference," The Art Bulletin 53 (September 1971), pp. 303-5.
3. Campbell Dodgson, Albrecht Dürer, Engravings and Etchings (London, 1926; reprint New York, 1967), under cat. no. 74; see also Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer, vol. 1 (London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed. 1948), pp. 151-71. According to entries in the journal Dürer kept during his travels in the Netherlands in 1520-21, he never disposed of all three prints together, although the Saint Jerome and Melencolia were sold and given away both separately and together. See Albrecht Dürer: Diary of his Journey to the Netherlands 1520-21 (introduction by J.-A. Goris and G. Marlier; London, 1971), pp. 62-63, 65-67 and 69.
4. Paul Weber, Beiträge zu Dürers Weltanschauing; Eine Studie über die drei Stiche "Ritter, Tod und Teufel," "Melencolia," und "Hieronymus im Gehäus" (Strasbourg, 1900), pp. 47-52, 60-61.
5. Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer, vol. 1 (London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed. 1948), pp. 154-71, esp. p. 156.
6. Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer, vol. 1 (London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed. 1948), p. 151.
7. Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, ed. G. Milanesi, vol. 5 (Florence, 1880), p. 409.