Saint Jerome

Translator of the 'Vulgate' Bible into Latin and accepted since Medieval times as the patron saint of spectacle makers.

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Saint Jerome painting
Saint Jerome
Italian School,
after Domenico Ghirlandaio
probably 17th c.

The holy cardinal is shown at work in his study, his spectacles hanging on their own hook attached to his writing desk. The cardinal’s hat on the shelf above reminds the viewer of Jerome’s services to Pope Damasus and his role in revising the 'Vulgate' version of the Bible between AD 382 and 385.

Since, to many, Jerome was the quintessential scholar, numerous paintings portray him as a studious cardinal in ecclesiastical red robes. (In order to elevate him to the same status and rank as the other church fathers, Jerome received the anachronistic title of cardinal in the twelfth century and was often depicted as such from the mid-fourteenth century onwards). Furthermore, he possesses spectacles (even though he lived eight hundred years before their invention), and has close at hand a pen, ink scrolls of paper, and books.

You may click on the image of this painting to enlarge it.

Detail of painting showing spectacles

To reiterate his learnedness an anachronistic pair of spectacles (of fictitious design with lacquered wood frames) is seen beneath his writing hand.

The original version, from which the BOA Museum’s picture is derived, is a fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio, painted for the nave of the church of the Ognissanti, Florence, in 1480. It was removed when the choir was dismantled in 1564, and is now in the left-hand aisle, between the third and fourth altar of the church. The artist's other works demonstrate that he was interested in optical effects; for instance the frescoes in the Santa Maria Novella are notable because he took full account of the incoming daylight, which passed through stained glass that he himself had provided in the interest of chromatic harmony.

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