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An elderly man draped in red cloth, holding a skull.

A white man stands before a rough stone table. He is lean and slightly muscled, with wispy black hair and a greying beard. He stands with his head tilted slightly back, looking up to the left with his mouth slightly open. He is mostly covered by a large piece of red cloth which drapes diagonally, revealing half of his chest and his left arm, which is bare and reaching forward to hold a smooth stone on the table. There is a frayed book on the table behind his hand. His right arm is bent and cradles a brown human skull.

Gallery Text

Ribera was a Spaniard who spent most of his career in Naples, which was then a Spanish possession. Known for expressing the corporeal sacrifices associated with faith, he depicted Saint Jerome, the early Christian ascetic, priest, and translator of the Bible, numerous times during his career. With harsh realism, Ribera stresses the saint’s role in propagating the sacrament of penance. Head uplifted, Saint Jerome grasps the stone with which he would violently beat his breast, while his left arm cradles a skull, representing the transience of human existence. Ribera highlights the act of self-abuse by contrasting the muscular tension in the saint’s right arm with the worn and wrinkled skin elsewhere on his aged body. The voluminous folds of his cardinal’s robe, rendered in deep chiaroscuro, and the crisp pages of the book to his right — a reference to his scholarly pursuits — further emphasize the frail state of his earthly body.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Jusepe de Ribera, Spanish (Játiva, Valencia 1591 - 1652 Naples)
Saint Jerome
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2400, European Art, 17th century, Rome and Its Influence in the Seventeenth Century
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
128 x 101.3 cm (50 3/8 x 39 7/8 in.)
framed: 165 x 139.5 x 8.2 cm (64 15/16 x 54 15/16 x 3 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.c.: Jusepe de Ribero espanol F., Signed Date: 1640


Recorded Ownership History
Count Friedrich von Pourtalès, Paris (by March 25, 1896). Baron Léon de Busseières, Paris (by 1908). [Trotti et Cie, Paris, March 5,1920], sold; to Arthur Sachs, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1920.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Arthur Sachs
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • August L. Mayer, Jusepe de Ribera (Lo Spagnoletto), Verlag von Karl W. Hiersemann (Leipzig, 1908), p. 18
  • Chandler R. Post, "Painting of Saint Jerome by Ribera", Fogg Art Museum Notes, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, 1922), vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 14-21, repr. p. 14 as fig. 1
  • Catalogue of an Exhibition of Spanish paintings from El Greco to Goya, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 1928), p. 8, no. 51, repr.
  • Arthur McComb, Exhibition of Italian Painting of the Sei- and Settecento, exh. cat., Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art / Morgan Memorial (Hartford, CT, 1930), p. 16, cat. no. 42
  • Arthur McComb, "A Saint Jerome by Jan Liss", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, March 1933), vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 32-33, p. 33
  • [unknown article title], Art News (April 1941), p. 18
  • José Guidol, Spanish Painting, exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio, 1941), pp. 86, 88, cat. no. 55, repr.
  • Carlyle Burrows, "Art Events of the Week", New York Herald Tribune (March 11, 1945), p. C7
  • Emily Genauer, "Legend of St. Jerome in Art", New York World-Telegram (New York, March 24, 1945)
  • Margaret Breuning, "Portraying St. Jerome", Art Digest (March 1945), vol. 19, no. 12, p. 21, repr.
  • Durlacher Brothers, An Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture of Saint Jerome, exh. cat. (New York, 1945), no. 11
  • Bernardino de Pantorba, José de Ribera, Iberia - Joaquín Gil (Barcelona, 1946), repr. in detail as fig. L.
  • Exhibition of Favorite Italian and Spanish Masters of the 17th and 18th Centuries (the Baroque Era), exh. cat., Winnipeg Art Gallery Association (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1951), p. 18, 26, no. 29, repr. p. 26
  • Elizabeth du Gué Trapier, Ribera, Hispanic Society of America (New York, 1952), pp. 168-169, 171, repr. as figs. 116 and 117
  • Ferdinand Eckhardt, El Greco to Goya, exh. cat., Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg, 1955), p. 10, cat. no. 4
  • Juan Antonio Gaya-Nuño, La Pintura Española Fuera de España, Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain, 1958), p. 282, no. 2366
  • June Glaser, "[Review] Baroque Symposium Art Exhibit Praised", Vassar Miscellany News (March 11, 1959), p. 2
  • Highlights from the Collections of the Fogg Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, 1964), cat. 67
  • Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1967)
  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 58
  • Richard E. Spear, Caravaggio and His Followers, exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, 1971), p. 154, repr.
  • Sydney J. Freedberg, "Lorenzo Lotto to Nicolas Poussin", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 389-397, p. 397, repr. p. 396 as fig. 14
  • Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez and Prof. Nicola Spinosa, L'opera completa del Ribera, Rizzoli Editore (Milan, 1978), no. 198, repr.
  • Herbert Friedmann, A Bestiary for Saint Jerome: Animal Symbolism in European Religious Art, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, D.C., 1980), p. 314
  • Craig Felton and William B. Jordan, Jusepe de Ribera lo Spagnoletto, 1591-1652, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, 1982), pp. 208-209, cat. no. 32, repr. p. 208
  • 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. 184, p. 162, repr.
  • Holliday T. Day and Hollister Sturges, ed., Joslyn Art Museum: Paintings & Sculpture from the European & American Collections, University of Nebraska Press (Omaha, Nebraska, 1987), p. 51
  • 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. 50, color plate; pp. 127, 373, repr. b/w cat. no. 827
  • [Reproduction only], The Harvard Review of Philosophy, (spring 1999)., repr. in color on cover
  • Prof. Nicola Spinosa, Ribera, Electa Napoli (Naples, Italy, 2003), repr. p. 210; scheda A289, repr.

Exhibition History

  • Exhibition of Spanish Paintings from El Greco to Goya, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 02/17/1928 - 04/15/1928
  • Italian Painting of the Sei and Settecento, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 01/22/1930 - 02/05/1930
  • Spanish Painting, Toledo Museum of Art, 03/16/1941 - 04/27/1941
  • An Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture of Saint Jerome, Durlacher Brothers, 03/05/1945 - 03/31/1945
  • Exhibition of Favorite Italian and Spanish Masters of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, 01/01/1951 - 12/31/1951
  • El Greco to Goya, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 04/16/1955 - 05/20/1955
  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967
  • Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967
  • Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977
  • Jusepe de Ribera lo Spagnoletto, 1591-1652, Kimbell Art Museum, 12/04/1982 - 02/06/1983
  • Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 10/24/2008 - 10/03/2009
  • 32Q: 2400 French/Italian/Spanish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

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Verification Level

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