- Gallery Text
In 1521, while the German artist Albrecht Dürer was in Antwerp, he painted a picture of Saint Jerome in his study surrounded by objects symbolizing transience and death. The painting was a sensation, prefiguring the genre of memento mori, images that compelled contemplation of mortality. The type became a specialty of local workshops, including that of Joos van Cleve, who is associated with more than a dozen versions of this image.
The piece of paper tacked to the wall reads “Respice Finem” — consider the end. Grasping his head, Jerome points at a skull, whose craggy surface is rendered in detail. Beside him is a snuffed-out candle. Beyond such obvious symbols of death, the image is filled with subtler reminders of the passage of time. The crucifix, set above an Italianate ornamental frieze, casts a curved shadow on its niche, and next to it, a bird — possibly a finch, symbol of Christ’s Passion — is trapped in a cage.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
Joos van Cleve, Netherlandish (Cleves, Germany c. 1485/1490 - 1540-1541 Antwerp, Belgium)
Previously attributed to Quentin Metsys, Netherlandish (Antwerp c. 1460 - 1530)
- Saint Jerome in His Study
- Work Type
- Creation Place: Europe, Belgium, Antwerp
- Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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- Physical Descriptions
- Oil on panel
- 99.7 × 83.8 cm (39 1/4 × 33 in.)
frame: 123.8 × 106.7 × 6.4 cm (48 3/4 × 42 × 2 1/2 in.)
- Inscriptions and Marks
- Signed: dated behind ornamental frieze: 1521
- Possibly sold [through Galerie Stern, Düsseldorf, June 11, 1932, lot 136 (as by Joos van Cleve)].  Joseph Warren, by 1942, by descent ; to Joseph Warren, Jr., 1946, by descent; to Howland Warren, Nahant, Massachusetts, Dr. Richard Warren, Dedham, Massachusetts, and Mrs. Grayson M. P. Murphy, New York, New York, 1957, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1961
 The description of lot 136 is very similar to 1961.26, however, there are many versions of Saint Jerome by van Cleve and Quentin Metsys. The painting was not found in the Galerie Stern inventory compiled by the Max Stern Project [see: https://www.concordia.ca/arts/max-stern/missing-works/stern-inventory-1936-38.html] or in the 1937 sale of the Stern stock at Lempertz in Cologne.
 The work was attributed to Quentin Massys (Metsys) when it arrived at the Fogg on long-term loan in 1942.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Howland Warren, Dr. Richard P. Warren, and Mrs. Grayson M.P. Murphy
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
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- Publication History
R. Bruce Livie, Auch Kleine Dinge: Dürer and the Decorative Tradition, exh. cat., Busch-Reisinger Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1971), cat. no. 15, repr.
John Oliver Hand, "Joos van Cleve and the Saint Jerome in the Norton Gallery and School of Art", Norton Gallery Studies, Norton Gallery and School of Art (Palm Beach, FL, 1972), fig. 4, repr.
Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 411, repr. p. 412 as pl. VI
John Oliver Hand, "Joos van Cleve: The Early and Mature Paintings" (1978), p. 310, no. 84a
Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), pp. 14, 46, repr. p. 47
Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 364, p. 306, repr.
Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 44, color plate; pp. 102, 173, repr. b/w cat. no. 109
Laura Giles, "'Christ before Pilate': A Major Composition Study by Pontormo", Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1991), vol. XVII, no. 1
William K. Storey, Writing History: a guide for Harvard's sophomore history concentrators, Elena Prentice (Cambridge, MA, 1996), cover page
Susan Foister and Ashok Roy, Making & Meaning: Holbein's Ambassadors, National Gallery Publications/Yale University Press (London, England, 1997), p. 55, fig. no. 57
Helene E. Roberts, ed., Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers (Chicago, 1998), repr. on cover of both volumes
Ivan Gaskell, "The Image of Vanitas: Efflorescence and Evanescence", exh. cat., Merrell Holberton (London, England, 1999), p. 187; repr. in color p. 186
John Oliver Hand, Joos van Cleve: The Complete Paintings, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, 2004), no. 78, pp. 92-95, 161-162, repr. as fig. 95
Stephen Perkinson, The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe, exh. cat., Bowdoin College Museum of Art (Brunswick, Maine, 2017), pp. 37-38, 201, repr. as pl. 17
- Exhibition History
Auch Kleine Dinge: Dürer and the Decorative Tradition, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 03/04/1971 - 04/03/1971
Acquisition in Context: The Adoration Triptych by the Master of 1518, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/28/1991 - 01/19/1992
Northern European Art from 1450 to 1550, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/13/1994 - 02/05/1995
Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/30/2021
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
- Related Works
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