(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)

St Jerome

c. 1480
Oil on panel, 103 x 75 cm
Pinacoteca, Vatican

In about 370, St Jerome, later a Father of the Church, is said to have withdrawn to live as a hermit in the desert of Chalcis near Antioch, in order to produce a translation of the Bible and live as an ascetic. Leonardo depicts the Father of the Church as a penitent, not a scholar. St Jerome is kneeling in a humble posture that arouses our sympathy, in front of the sketched cross of Christ on the right, and before him lies the lion, his attribute. In his right hand he is holding a stone with which he is striking his breast. The head section of the unfinished panel was sawn out in the 18th century and not replaced and restored until the 19th century.