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Saint Jerome


Merisi Michelangelo called Caravaggio
(Milan 1571 - Porto Ercole 1610)








oil on canvas, cm 116x153


Collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1617)

The painting was probably executed for Scipione Borghese – perhaps to express gratitude for the latter’s help when the artist was in trouble with the law (1605) – and was the first work by Caravaggio to enter the Borghese collection. Jerome was one of the most venerated saints during the Counter-Reformation, partly because of his choice of exile from Rome to dedicate himself to translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin for the Vulgate. The figure is inserted in a composition dominated by parallel horizontal lines, and thus the saint’s head is placed on almost the same plane as the skull. The colours – essentially browns and whites, in addition to the extraordinary red of the cloak – are those used by the painter during his last years in Rome before his exile after he had killed a man.