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St Jerome

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Fermo (painted)

  • Date:

    1481 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Crivelli, Vittore (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    tempera and gilt on panel

  • Museum number:

    765:1-1865

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64a, The Robert H. Smith Gallery, case 6

Vittore Crivelli (1444-1502) was the youngest brother of Carlo Crivelli under whom he probably trained. Around 1465, he followed his brother to Zara, Dalmatia where he took on a pupil and by 1481 had moved to the Marches. He settled in Fermo with his brother and spent there most of the rest of his life.

This panel painting originally attributed to Carlo Crivelli was later accordingly recognised as by Vittore and part of the altarpiece commissioned in 1481 by the Vinci family in Fermo. The present work, along with 765A-1865 is one of the four panels that flank the tabernacle in the upper part of the altarpiece. It shows, set against an elaborate gilded background adorned with an intricate pattern of acanthus leaves, griffins and crowns, the half-length figure of St Jerome traditionally wearing his red cardinal mantle and hat, and holding a model of the Church as he is considered one of the four Fathers of the (western) Church. The open book in his left hand alludes to his activity as a translator of the Bible into Latin.

Physical description

Set against a golden tooled background depicting an intricate pattern of acanthus leaves, griffins and crowns, is the half-length figure of St Jerome wearing his red cardinal mantle and hat, and holding a model of a tempietto-shape Church in the right hand and an open book with red and black writings in the other hand.

Place of Origin

Fermo (painted)

Date

1481 (painted)

Artist/maker

Crivelli, Vittore (painter)

Materials and Techniques

tempera and gilt on panel

Dimensions

Height: 60.8 cm, Width: 38.4 cm, Depth: 2.9 cm max depth because curved panel, Weight: 1.54 kg

Object history note

Purchased, 1865

Historical significance: The present panel, along with 765A-1865, was in the Soulages collection, mainly assembled in Italy in the 1830s. The whole collection was then bought by a group of English collectors in 1856 and was subsequently acquired by the Museum in 1865. Originally attributed to Carlo Crivelli, this painting has been accordingly recognised to be by his younger brother Vittore (Crowe and Cavalcaselle, 1871) who formed his style in Carlo's workshop and developed a very close manner.
This panel, along with 765A-1865, belongs to the upper part of an altarpiece dated 1481 and commissioned by the Vinci family in Fermo where Vittore has settled in the 1480s and spent most of the rest of his life. This altarpiece was identified on stylistic ground, especially because of the peculiar tooling on the gilded background representing an intricate pattern of acanthus leaves, griffins and crowns never found again in Vittore's prolific oeuvre.
The present work shows the half-length figure of St Jerome traditionally wearing his red cardinal mantle and hat, and holding a model of the Church as he is considered one of the four Fathers of the (western) Church. The open book in his left hand alludes to his activity as a translator of the Bible into Latin.
F. Zeri (1961) suggested that this panel along with St Catherine of Alexandria (765A-1865), St Anthony of Padua and St Bernardino of Siena (both Van Heek collection, s'Heerenberg) flanked a tabernacle representing the Pietà (Kress collection, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson). This hypothesis was taken over by Sandra di Provvido in her monograph on the painter (1972). The lower part of the altarpiece is formed by five panels from the Wilstach collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art representing the full-length figures of St Bonaventure and St John the Baptist on the left, St Louis of Toulouse and St Francis on the right, the central panel showing a lavish Madonna and Child enthroned with four angels and cherubs.
Vittore Crivelli is considered as a minor artist compare with his elder brother Carlo. His style appears somehow more provincial and lacking of the prolific fantasia that characterises Carlo's output. He borrowed from his brother a certain angularity in drawing the faces and hands, which he accentuated without reaching similar expressive results. Nonetheless, Vittore succeeded in providing most of his compositions with a sweetness and a grace that gave them a character of their own, mostly distinguishable from his brother's hand. The Vinci altarpiece was already considered by his contemporaries as his masterpiece.

Historical context note

In Italy, the altar became a primary setting for painting on panel - hence the appellation 'altarpiece' - a format developed in Western art from the example of Byzantine icons. An early format consisted in gabled vertical panels representing a full-length saint flanked by scenes of his or her life and soon developed to include several individual compartments to form a polyptych which frames could become increasingly elaborate. They eventually transformed the altarpiece into an architectonic structure resembling in detail and spatial principles the façades of contemporary full-scale Gothic architecture. In Italy such altarpieces were usually made of wood and painted, while in northern Europe they were commonly executed in stone. A new type of altarpiece soon appeared in 15th-century Italy, known as pala,, and was closer to a framed picture. In the interest of clarity and unity, numerous medieval screens separating the choir and high altar from the nave were removed.
The religious reforms of the 16th century brought new attention and some important changes to the form and function of the altarpiece. Under Protestant auspices, the altarpiece iconography was restricted to subjects well-suited to the sacrament celebrated at the altar, such as the Last Supper while the dynamic qualities that characterize Baroque art brought important changes to altarpiece design. Important altarpieces consisting of a single painting or relief continued to be made, but increasingly architecture was used as the theatrical setting for the three-dimensional display of the altarpiece's subject in sculpture.
Altarpieces adorned both high altars and side altars. High altars often carried large altarpieces with elaborate programmes while side altars served a more private piety and their altarpieces were often endowed by private individuals.

Descriptive line

St Jerome. Panel from an altar piece, painted by Vittore Crivelli, about 1481

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 79-81, cat. no. 78
J. C. Robinson, Catalogue of the Soulages Collection,1856, p. 161, no. 580.
Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of painting in North Italy, i, 1871, p. 98, n. 3.
Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of painting in North Italy, 1912, ed. T. Borenius, i, p. 98, n. 4.
G. M. Rushforth, Carlo Crivelli,1900, p. 93.
B. Geiger in U. Thieme and F. Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, viii, 1913, p. 137.
L. Testi, Storia della pittura veneziana, ii, 1915, pp. 686 f., 706.
F. Drey, Carlo Crivelli, 1927, p. 158.
B. Berenson, Italian pictures of the Renaissance,1932, p. 163.
B. Berenson,Venetian Painters,1957, p. 71, fig. 162.
R. van Marle, Italian Schools of painting, xviii, 1936, p. 84, n. 1.
F. Zeri, 'Appunti nell'Ermitage e nel Museo Pusckin' in Bollettino d'Arte, No III, Jul-Sept. 1961, pp. 231, 234 ff., figs. 24-7.
S. di Provvido, La pittura di Vittore Crivelli,1972, p. 75 ff., repr.

Materials

Tempera; Gilt; Panel

Techniques

Painting

Subjects depicted

Mantle; Model; Bible; Hat; Church

Categories

Paintings; Christianity

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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