The iconography of Saint Jerome, one of four Doctors of the Church, is conditioned by a passage in his autobiography which describes the hardness of his period of penance in the desert of Chalcis. Half naked, his hair dirty, ungroomed, his body wasted, ill-concealed by his sackcloth, gaunt from the mortification of the flesh, his belly bloated, surrounded by scorpions and wild beasts.
These circumstances, related to the youth of the Saint, reoccur consistently in the way Saint Jerome, in his senior years, meets an other description of himself: exegete of the Holy Scripts and author of the Vulgate.
One lucky contingency allowed this precious painting by Caravaggio, Saint Jerome Writing, from the collection of a Cardinal, Scipione Borgese, landlord of the notorious Villa in Rome, to be transported to the collection of another Cardinal: Federico Borromeo, founder of the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana.
The late has bestowed to the roman institution the Basket Of Fruit, by the same author, for a show on still life to open Autumn 2016 in the Capital, getting in exchange the Saint Jerome Writing, to be exhibited for three months in the magnificent Sala Federiciana of the Library in Milan, together with eight drawings of the Ambrosiana collection, documenting the traditional depiction of the Saint.
Milano, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, November 9th through February 19th 2017
(Testo italiano qui)