Saint Jerome In His Study 1470 Matteo di Giovanni, Italian, circa 1428 - 1495 Fogg Museum A loan for Beyond Words: Italian Renaissance Books, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, September 22, 2016—January 16, 2017
Guilds played an important role in commissioning art in Renaissance Italy. Despite its religious subject, this painting was never intended to be an altarpiece. In September 1482, Siena’s Arte dei Notai, or notaries’ guild, installed this large painting in a reception room at its headquarters, and in the months that followed, payment was made to other artists for a monumental frame for the painting (no longer extant). Jerome is not shown as a penitent in the desert, as is more common, but as a humanist scholar studying at his desk, mirroring the activity and pose of the notaries at work nearby in the guild office. The saint, credited with translating the Bible into Latin, is seated at the center of his study, which is cluttered with the tools that serve him as a scholar. These same implements would also have been used by the notaries, who documented all legally binding transactions in the city.