Simon de Châlons (1500-1561) attributed. Saint Jerome around 1520-1530
Fine panel laminated on panel measuring 39.5 cm by 33 cm
Old frame measuring 61 cm by 52 cm
This very interesting painting, previously considered to be a Venetian school of the 15th century, is in fact attributable to a French painter who certainly was greatly inspired by Italian painting, Simon de Châlons (1500-1561). Apart from general criteria, it is mainly precise points which suggest and support this attribution, because they are found in other works of the painter. This is particularly the case of the magnificent rendering of the fabrics of Saint Jerome's tunic, of the landscapes with the way of rendering the plants and buildings and finally, quite surprisingly of this face of Saint Jerome which is reproduced in another painting for the representation of another character. The artist was completely freely inspired by two other representations of Saint Jerome where we see Saint Jerome on the right looking to the left at Christ on the cross, a Christ represented in flesh and blood (and not a simple cross or a crucifix sculpted as often), one by Pietro Perugino (1445-1523) and the other by Giovanni Battista Cima (1459-1517). The quality of the work also depends on the care taken in the chosen medium. Here we have an oil on a thin panel (3 to 4 mm) which is laminated to a linden (or fruit) panel. We do not of course forget this very old setting.
Simon de Châlons (1500-1561)
Simon de Mailhy or Mailly, known as Simon de Châlons, or Simon Châlons, was born in Châlons-en-Champagne. With artistic training from Champagne, but very influenced by Italian art and in particular by Raphael thanks to the distribution of prints, he synthesized these two paintings in his works. His emphasis on the Italian style will have a lasting influence on all branches of Avignon art. He is not documented until his arrival in Avignon, probably in the early 1530s. There he collaborated with the painter Henri Guigues in 1532, before taking over his studio upon his death and marrying his widow in 1533. He is extremely well documented in the notarial archives and we know that he served many prestigious sponsors over around thirty years, until his death in 1561 (his will was found by Abbot Requin in 1891). It is of course Avignon which preserves the most paintings (on wood, but sometimes also on canvas) by Simon de Châlons, even if there are some in the Louvre, in Besançon or more curiously in the Borghese Gallery in Rome. The man has never been forgotten by local historiography. His productions were thus cited before 1789 and in the 19th century. As a man of his time, Simon sought much of his inspiration from the engravings that circulated from one country to another. He was inspired by Raphael and Lucas de Leyden to create new compositions. It was also about showing sponsors that we were up to date, ever more Italianized.
Saint Jerome and the Lion
The golden legend tells the story of the meeting of the saint and the lion. Walking in the desert Saint Jerome finds himself face to face with a lion which, instead of attacking him, licks its paw with an unhappy look. Saint Jerome, full of pity, removes the thorn that hurt him. Accompanied by the grateful lion, he returns to his monastery where the beast first strikes fear and fear. But faced with his gentleness and his affection for the saint, the monks took a liking to the lion and tasked him with guarding the monastery's donkey. But one day, the lion returns alone because the Bedouins had kidnapped the donkey. Accused of having eaten him, the lion underwent the penance inflicted on him with patience and humility, then disappeared. He found the thieves, put them to flight then brought the donkey back to the monastery but, exhausted by his search, he died at the feet of Saint Jerome.