My Favourite Painting: Victoria Vyvyan

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan selects a religious engraving by Albrecht Dürer.

Victoria Vyvyan on her choice, ‘Saint Jerome in his Study’, by Albrecht Dürer

‘St Jerome’s study is so peaceful and domestic—and so human. The little fat dog is lying in a patch of sun, snoozing next to the benevolent lion. Did the lion insist on coming home with the saint from his time in the wilderness?’

‘Pattens are kicked off under the window seat and the cushions are squished. The sun and the skull tell us that time passes, but St Jerome’s translation of the Bible is forever. There he sits in his slippers, having reached that point of perfect, peaceful, uninterrupted concentration. Heaven, indeed.’

Victoria Vyvyan is the President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA)

Charlotte Mullins comments on ‘Saint Jerome in his Study’

Albrecht Dürer was an acclaimed Northern Renaissance painter, but it was his engravings that brought him international fame during his own lifetime. This is one of three Meisterstiche (master engravings) that reveal his great skill with the burin. Such is his ability to render texture and detail, from the lion’s shaggy mane to the wood grain on the rafters, that we would be forgiven for thinking we are looking at a painting and not a print. St Jerome sits at a table on a sunny day, hard at work on his translation of the Bible. In the 4th century, he had established a monastery in Bethlehem following a two-year spiritual retreat in the desert.

Dürer re-creates a hermit-like existence for St Jerome, but transposes it to a 16th-century German study, complete with ink pot and sloped writing stand. A lion lounges in the foreground, a nod to the celebrated story of the saint pulling a thorn from a lion’s paw. St Jerome’s halo provides a source of light, together with the sunlight that projects decorative shadows onto the arched walls. There are few comforts beyond the abundance of cushions, as this is primarily a place of serious religious work. A crucifix on the edge of the table observes St Jerome as he translates the Old Testament into Latin from original Hebrew and the New Testament from Greek. His Biblia vulgata (Bible in the common tongue), which took more than 20 years to complete, allowed Western Europe to access its Biblical teachings and his translation was used throughout the Middle Ages.


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