Antonio da Fabriano’s St Jerome in His Study (1451)

I had never heard of Antonio da Fabriano unitil I recently came across a reproduction of this painting in a book. Yet, though never noted, the initial of his name is fairly obvious....

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Captions for image(s) above:

Antonio da Fabriano, St Jerome in his Study (1451). Tempera and perhaps oil and gold leaf on panel. Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore

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....the desk crosses the saint's triangular figure in the unmistakeable form of an A (for Antonio). I noticed it, perhaps, because I was familiar with a religious work by the Italian artist, Pietro Annigoni, painted six centuries later in the 1960's.

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There too the central forms create a giant A for Annigoni. It is a common technique, the origin of which goes back to at least the early 15th century, if not before. These types of unseen links between very different artists is a good example of why you should not necessarily restrict your study to a single period. Study anything because the poetic techniques are timeless.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Pietro Annigoni, St Joseph and Christ Child (1963) Church of San Lorenzo, Florence 

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In both paintings the message seems to be similar:

     - that divinity is inside you not outside,

     - that the only path to spiritual happiness is knowledge of the self, your self

     -and that external vision is to a large extent always colored by our own inner thoughts and emotions.
 

Jerome's hidden identity must be significant because Antonio took the trouble, as artists so often do, to give St Jerome's lion similar features. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Antonio da Fabriano, St Jerome in his Study (1451)

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Both have sad-looking eyes at an angle, a long nose, a straight mouth and similar hair. The lion holds his mane as though its hairs symbolize the artist's brush. The lion then probably represents the body of "Antonio the craftsman" guided by his senses while Jerome is Antonio's inner self, a "painting" of his own mind at the moment of its conception when, for an instant at least, his mind was spiritually pure.1

Captions for image(s) above:

Two details of Antonio's St Jerome in his Study

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Notes:

1. That is perhaps why the floor veers upwards as though it is vertical. It is probably vertical because it represents the background to a "painting" within the painting. The lion, who represents the craftsman, is completely out-of-scale and does not seem to rest properly on the floor because he is not part of the painting. These techniques are very similar to those used in some of Edouard Manet's paintings especially Mlle V in the Costume of an Espada (1861) and Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (1863). They are worth comparing.

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 25 May 2015. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.