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Jan van Eyck - St. Jerome in the housing

by Alexandra Tuschka

St. Jerome, here in red cardinal's robe, wearily rests his face in his left hand. With his right hand he is turning the pages of a large book. In which exactly he reads here, is not to be seen. Other books on the upper shelf, piled chaotically on top of each other, reinforce the impression of a scholar's room. Thus, the book itself becomes a symbol carrier.

Other scientific devices fill the parlor and emphasize the image of a humanistic scholar - an ideal of the Northern Alpine Renaissance . These include an hourglass, a star altimeter and a compass. Light falls through the window from the upper left, diagonally illuminating the central space of the painting. Also symbolically it stands for the "light" of knowledge. At the bottom of the picture is the attribute of the saint - the lion and refers to the legend of the saint, according to which Jerome pulled a stinger out of the paw of a lion, whereupon the lion later came to his aid.

Since the work was dated 1442, a year after van Eyck's death, it was long assumed that a pupil must have at least finished the work, although the master himself may have begun it. A restorer then revealed that many parts of the painting that are typical of van Eyck, such as the deep red color, had been painted over and the original work can probably be attributed to the Dutchman after all.

Jan van Eyck - St. Jerome in the housing

Oil on canvas, 1442, Institute of Art in Detroit


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