Saint Jerome in Penitence

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Oil on canvas 
75-1/8 x 45 in. (190.8 x 114.3 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

An early Christian scholar, St. Jerome produced the first Latin translation of the Bible. He lived the life of an ascetic for four years in the desert while studying and praying to free himself from worldly desire. Emaciated and scantily clad, here he contemplates a crucifix in his harsh wilderness retreat. Around him lie his books and writing materials, as well as the scourge used for his repentant self-reproof and a skull (the symbol of death) that served as aids in spiritual contemplation. In his hand he holds the stone with which he beat his breast in penitence.

Goya’s beautifully rendered St. Jerome in Penitence may have originally formed part of a series of the four Fathers of the Church, along with his St. Ambrose (Cleveland Museum of Art), St. Gregory (Museo Romántico, Madrid) and St. Augustine (private collection). However, while all of these paintings are almost identical in size, the intimate depiction of St. Jerome as the fervent anchorite contrasts starkly with the less spontaneous and more classical depiction of the other church fathers in their sumptuous Roman liturgical robes.


Said to have come from the Jesuit mission, province of Toledo, Spain (possibly San Ildefonso?).
Manuel Vilches, Madrid, by 1917;
Luis Vilches, Madrid, 1923, still in 1957; [Stanley Moss and Co., Inc., New York];
[Schmid & Schmid Aktiengesellschaft für Kunsthandel, Vaduz, Liechtenstein, sold 22 January 1964, to];
[Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York / Galerie des Arts Anciens et Mod- ernes, Schaan, Liechtenstein];
[Spencer A. Samuels and Co., Ltd., New York, by September 1969, when sold to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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