de jonckheere old masters

David Teniers

Saint Jerome

Copper: 27 x 36 cm
Signed and dated 1643


David Teniers was an indisputable master of the genre scene. With this portrayal of Saint Jerome, he offers us a unique example of a theme he painted throughout his career: penitent saints. Contrary to his traditional compositions where the saint is inserted in a vast landscape, in front of a cave or under ruined arches, here Teniers invites the viewer into the private life of the saint, isolated in his cave. Sitting on an imposing stone slab with a lion resting at his side, Saint Jerome piously devotes himself to reading in front of a makeshift altar. Clothed in a sculptural red drape, he looks towards the far left of the painting, reflecting upon the errors that led him away from the path of the Gospel.

Isolated in profound solitude, weeping for his sins, the only precious items Saint Jerome has are the books which he brought back from his journeys. Arranged at the foot of the altar, the four volumes remind us of those laid at the feet of Saint Anthony in one of the paintings at the Louvre [1], as well as the objects lying on the altar: an hourglass and a skull, symbols of vanity, and also a crucifix. In addition, Teniers offers the viewer the opportunity to discover the private life of the saint, contrary to the vast paintings of the 1630s. In our panel, the heavy blocks of rock allow the painter to portray a range of browns, ochres and yellows, which light up the background with delicate nuances.

When he was nominated official curator and painter of Leopold Wilhelm of Austria in Brussels in 1651, Teniers was able to study the painting of Saint Jerome by Dosso Dossi [2] in the collections of the Palace of Coudenberg. Clearly impressed by this painting, he created a pasticcio which is currently kept in a private collection. He chose to portray our Saint Jerome in a warmer and softer light, making the Saint’s posture less tense, and giving him a more intense, almost calm look, indicating that he had almost overcome his demons.

[1] David Teniers, Tentation de Saint Antoine, signé D.TENIERS.FEC, panel: 63 x 50 cm, Paris, Musée du Louvre.
[2] Dosso Dossi, Giovanni de Lutero dit (1489-90/1542), Saint Jerome, c. 1518-1519, painting on canvas, 50,3 x 74,2 cm, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Provenance :
Property of an Italian Nobleman