Albrecht Dürer, St Jerome seated near a pollard willow, a drypoint

Germany, dated AD 1512

The saint as a desert hermit

Dürer only made three drypoints in his career, which probably all date from 1512. This is probably the most successful. Here, the rich black tone of the shadows indicates that it is an early impression, printed before the plate had worn down. The limited number of good prints that can be pulled from a drypoint plate may explain why Dürer abandoned the technique.

St Jerome is usually depicted in two ways: as a scholar in his study, or as a penitent sinner, beating his chest with a rock to deaden his flesh to sin. Dürer has combined these traditions, and moved the scholar in his desk into a landscape. This setting for St Jerome was popular in Venice, where Dürer had stayed twice. The pool and rocky foreground, and the view into the distance (glimpsed to the left of the crucifix) are characteristic of the Venetian paintings, such as versions by Giovanni Bellini in the National Galleries of London and Washington.

St Jerome (382-405) was responsible for translating the Bible into the Latin 'Vulgate' version, the Bible of the Western Church through the Middle Ages and still the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vulgate was over 1,000 years old by 1500. The printing of translations from the original Greek became a topic of bitter public debate. Martin Luther published a version of the New Testament in German in 1522; William Tyndale produced an English version in 1526, a crime for which he was burnt at the stake in 1536.

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More information


E. Panofsky, The life and art of Albrecht D (Princeton University Press, 1945, 1971)

G. Bartrum, German Renaissance prints, 149, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


Height: 213.000 mm
Width: 181.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1851-12-13-149



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