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Man with red robe and halo sitting at a desk

A light-skinned man with a white beard and a long red robe sits in profile before a wooden desk. The desk is inclined. Two open books sit on its surface. Above this area is a cabinet with doors ajar. The seated man’s face is turned just toward the viewer. He has wrinkles and a very slight smile. A golden halo is behind his head. At his feet is an animal resembling a small lion. In the background is a table with more books, a stone wall, and a high window with an hourglass and a candle scattered on its sill.

Gallery Text

Guilds played an important role in commissioning art in Renaissance Italy. Despite its religious subject, this painting was never intended to be an altarpiece. In September 1482, Siena’s Arte dei Notai, or notaries’ guild, installed this large painting in a reception room at its headquarters, and in the months that followed, payment was made to other artists for a monumental frame for the painting (no longer extant). Jerome is not shown as a penitent in the desert, as is more common, but as a humanist scholar studying at his desk, mirroring the activity and pose of the notaries at work nearby in the guild office. The saint, credited with translating the Bible into Latin, is seated at the center of his study, which is cluttered with the tools that serve him as a scholar. These same implements would also have been used by the notaries, who documented all legally binding transactions in the city.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Matteo di Giovanni, Italian (Borgo San Sepolcro, Italy c. 1428-1495)
Saint Jerome in his Study
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Tuscany, Siena
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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Physical Descriptions

Tempera and oil on panel
sight: 163.4 x 118.2 cm (64 5/16 x 46 9/16 in.)
frame: 184.5 x 136.4 x 12 cm (72 5/8 x 53 11/16 x 4 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Likely the panel commissioned by the Notaries Guild of Siena for the decoration of their headquarters in that city, and for which Matteo di Giovanni received four payments from the Guild, dated 7 June and 30 June 1481 and c. 30 September 1482. [1] Likely Antonio Piccolomini Bellanti (1771-1837), Pian dei Mantellini, Siena, before 1835. [2] Panciatichi, Florence. Cecconi, Florence, by 1904 [3], to; William Hathaway Forbes, 1905, by descent; to Edward Waldo Forbes, gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1966.

1. G. Fattorini, "Matteo di Giovanni's 'St. Jerome' for the Notaries' Guild of Siena," in "The Burlington Magazine" 154 (1312) July 2012: pp. 468-475. Fattorini argues that the Art Museums' panel of Saint Jerome can be conclusively indentified as the work mentioned in documents of 1482 that record 4 payments made by the Notaries’ Guild of Siena to Matteo di Giovanni for an image of their patron, Saint Jerome, to decorate the interior of their headquarters in the city. This conclusion is based on stylistic grounds that link the Saint Jerome to other works known to have been commissioned by the Guild for their headquarters.

2. Ibid., p. 470, a "S. Girolamo figura quasi di grandezza al naturale, a pie' del quale è il nome dell'artista [Matteo di Giovanni]" which can be associated with the Fogg panel is recorded in the Bellanti collection in Ettore Romagnoli's "Biografia cronologica de' belleartisti senesi" of 1835. Interestingly, the work is absent from the list of Bellanti works sold in 1838 to pay of the late Antonio Piccolomini's debts.

3. Cecconi, Florence, is listed as the owner in the 1904 exhibition catalogue for "Mostra dell'Antica Art Senese"

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Edward W. Forbes in memory of his father, William Hathaway Forbes
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Mostra dell'Antica Arte Senese: Catalogo Generale, exh. cat., Tip. E Lit. Sordomuti di L. Lazzeri (Siena, 1904), p. 287, no. 6 (107)
  • Emil Jacobsen, Das Quattrocento in Siena: studien in der Gemäldegalerie der Akademie, Heitz & Mündel (Strassburg, 1908), p. 59, repr. as plate XXVI
  • Joseph Breck, "Notizie Intorno al Dipinti Italiani nel Fogg Museum", Rassegna d'Arte (October 1909), pp. 169-172, pp. 169-170, repr. p. 170
  • Edward Waldo Forbes, "The Paintings", Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, June 1909), Vol. 7, No. 39, pp. 22-29, p. 26, no. 11
  • J. A. Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle, A New History of Painting in Italy: From the II to the XVI Century, J. M. Dent & Co./E. P. Dutton & Co. (London, 1909), p.132, note 3
  • William N. Bates, "Archaeological News", American Journal of Archaeology (January - March 1910), Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 95-141, p. 137
  • Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, Matteo da Siena und seine Zeit, Heitz & Mündel (Strassburg, 1910), pp. 115-118, 140
  • William N. Bates, "Archaeological News: Notes on Recent Excavations and Discoveries; Other News", American Journal of Archaeology (July - September 1913), Vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 429-469, p. 124
  • Edward Waldo Forbes and Laura Howland Dudley, "The Fogg Museum of Harvard University: Primitive Italian Pictures Recently Acquired by the Fogg Museum", Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, August 1913), Vol. 11, No. 64, pp. 35, 38
  • William N. Bates, "Archaeological News: Notes on Recent Excavations and Discoveries; Other News", American Journal of Archaeology (January - March 1914), Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 85-127, p. 124
  • G. B. Cavalcaselle and J. A. Crowe, A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixth-teenth Century, John Murray (London, 1914), p. 184, note 2
  • George Harold Edgell, "The Loan Exhibition of Italian Paintings in the Fogg Museum, Cambridge", Art and Archaeology (July - December 1915), Vol. II, pp. 11-22, p. 13
  • Bernard Berenson, Essays in the Study of Sienese Painting, Frederic Fairchild Sherman (New York, 1918), pp. 66-67, repr.
  • Collection of Mediaeval and Renaissance Paintings, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1919), pp. 126-131
  • Lionello Venturi, Italian Paintings in America, E. Weyhe Gallery (New York, NY, 1933), Vol. II, plate 295, repr.
  • Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1966-1967, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1967), pp. 88, 149, repr. p. 88
  • Everett Fahy, "A Portrait of a Renaissance Cardinal as St. Jerome", Minneapolis Institute of Art Bulletin, Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Minneapolis, 1970), Vol. LLV, pp. 5-9, p. 9, repr. as fig. 6
  • Edward Waldo Forbes, Yankee Visionary, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1971), p. 26, repr. in b/w p. 27
  • Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 138
  • David Kolch, "Reconstruction System for Panel Painting Supports: A Review and Evaluation of Treatments in the Fogg Museum Laboratory, 1927-1952" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies , August 1977), Unpublished, pp. 1-60 passim
  • Everett Fahy, "Italian Painting Before 1500", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 377-388, p. 388, repr. p. 387 as fig. 11
  • Herbert Friedmann, A Bestiary for Saint Jerome: Animal Symbolism in European Religious Art, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, D.C., 1980), p. 335
  • 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)
  • Jacqueline du Pasquier, Histoire du Verre le Moyen Âge, Massin Editeur (Paris, France, 2005), pp. 140-141, repr. in color with detail
  • Gabriele Fattorini, "Matteo di Giovanni's 'St Jerome' for the notaries' Guild of Siena", Burlington Magazine (London, England, July 2012), vol. CLIV, no.1312, pp.468-475, pp. 468-475, repr. p. 471 as fig. 7, detail repr. p 471 as fig. 6 and p. 473 as fig.10

Exhibition History

  • Mostra dell'Antica Arte Senese, Palazzo Pubblico, 04/01/1940 - 08/01/1904
  • Loan Exhibition of Italian Primitive Paintings, Fogg Art Museum, 02/26/1915 - 03/18/1915
  • Edward Waldo Forbes: Yankee Visionary, Fogg Art Museum, 01/16/1971 - 02/22/1971
  • 32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 09/01/2016; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2017 - 01/01/2050
  • Beyond Words: Italian Renaissance Books, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 09/22/2016 - 01/16/2017

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

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