(German, c. 1460-1531)
Overall: 37.8 x 28.1 x 15.9 cm (14 7/8 x 11 1/16 x 6 1/4 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1946.82
In the story Saint Jerome encounters a fearsome lion, here depicted as diminutive, gentle, and submissive.
Said to have come from the Benedictine abbey church of Saint Peter in Erfurt, Germany, this statue depicts the church father Saint Jerome as he removes a thorn from the paw of a lion, a legendary account of the saint’s kindness. Following the common iconography of the scene, Jerome is dressed in the traditional robes of a Roman cardinal, with the cowl draped over his tonsured head and the broad-brimmed hat on his right leg. Traces of polychromy and gilding suggest that it was once brightly colored. Drill holes in the hat further indicate that cords and tassels of fabric, typical of a cardinal’s hat, would once have decorated the sculpture. Whether the statue was originally commissioned for an altar in a private chapel or for its artistic value remains unknown. Its alleged provenance from a church in Erfurt and Jerome’s popularity as a patron saint of humanists and scholars make either scenario likely. Riemenschneider’s Saint Jerome is not only one of the artist’s more important early sculptures, it is also his only work in alabaster in a collection in the US.
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