October 8, 2019

POSTED BY

Lieke Corpelijn

CATEGORY

Leonardo da Vinci’s Saint Jerome in the Met

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To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), The Metropolitan Museum of Art will display the artist’s painting Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness (started ca. 1483) This painting is in an unfinished state, which provides viewers to see the artist’s creative process. Leonardo da …

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), The Metropolitan Museum of Art will display the artist’s painting Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness (started ca. 1483) This painting is in an unfinished state, which provides viewers to see the artist’s creative process.

Leonardo da Vinci is the prototypical universal genius of the Renaissance. He was trained in Florence as a painter, sculptor, and thinker in the innovative workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–1488). Leonardo was active in Italy—in Florence, Milan, and Rome—and France. He began working on Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness in Milan around 1483, but kept the painting with him until his death in Amboise, France, on May 2, 1519. The general circumstances of Saint Jerome’s production are unknown, as are the reasons that Leonardo continued to rework this painting into his years without ever finishing it.

In its unfinished state, the painting shows us that Leonardo did not proceed in a disciplined way. He was particularly interested in creating a detailed, anatomically correct under drawing for the saint’s body. The elegant silhouette of the lion seems now especially powerful, because there is almost no modeling beyond the outlines. A close examination of the paint surface reveals the presence of Leonardo’s fingerprints, especially in the upper-left corner of the composition. Leonardo used his fingers to distribute the pigments and create a soft-focus effect in the sky and landscape.

At The Met, the painting will be displayed in a gallery by itself, starkly illuminated within an otherwise darkened space in order to heighten the picture’s contemplative dimension, which Leonardo intended.