Penitent Jerome (c.1494 – 1497) by Albrecht Durer

Penitent Jerome - Albrecht Durer - c.1494 - 1497

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Artwork Information

TitlePenitent Jerome
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Datec.1494 - 1497
Dimensions17 x 23 cm
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationNational Gallery, London, UK

About Penitent Jerome

“Penitent Jerome,” created by Albrecht Dürer between circa 1494 and 1497, is a religious painting made using oil on panel. Measuring 17 x 23 cm, this work reflects the Northern Renaissance art movement and is housed at the National Gallery, London, UK.

The artwork depicts Saint Jerome, a notable Christian scholar and priest. In traditional iconography, Jerome is often presented in a contemplative or penitential state, reflecting his reputation for piety and dedication to God. In Dürer’s portrayal, Jerome is shown with a long, flowing white beard, indicating wisdom and age. He kneels in a rugged, rocky landscape, suggestive of the barren environs that a hermit like Jerome might retreat to for reflection and penance. Jerome’s thin, muscled body is cloaked with a blue garment that drapes softly across his skin, highlighting his frail human form. In one hand, Jerome holds a crucifix, signifying his religious devotion, and beside him lies a red cardinal’s hat, alluding to his status as a cardinal in the Church—a title he was given in Christian tradition but never officially held during his lifetime.

The scenery captures an expansive wilderness, with dramatically rendered clouds filling the sky, evoking a sense of the divine and the grandeur of nature. The presence of the lion, calm and regal, at Jerome’s side, references the legend of Jerome removing a thorn from a lion’s paw, after which the animal became his loyal companion.

Overall, Dürer’s “Penitent Jerome” portrays the saint in a state of humble contemplation and asceticism, surrounded by the majesty of the natural world, and accompanied by his legendary lion companion, symbolizing the harmonious relationship between mankind and nature through faith.

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