Saint Jerome in his Study, Dated 154, close to Pieter Coecke van Aelst
Technical and art historical study by KIK/IRPA (Dendrochronology, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), …)
Art historical study by Claire Toussat and Elisabeth Van Eyck under the direction of Christina Currie (KIK/IRPA – Brussels)
Oil on a wooden panel (Eastern Baltic)
Huile sur panneau de bois (Baltique)
Read the final report here:
Read the Laboratory report here:
Read the dendrochronology report here:
Conclusion par KIK/IRPA
The technical examination and scientific analyses of the painting provides key information on its materials, layer structure and creative process. Dendrochonology gives an Eastern Baltic origin for the wood and an earliest manufacturing date for the support of after 1520. Cross-sectional analysis shows a typical sixteenth-century layer structure with a chalk preparatory layer and a light-toned, oil-based imprimatura. The pigments in the paint layer, as suggested by macro-XRF scanning, are also typical of the period. These results support the painted date of 154(2), which has been applied by the artist in painted cursive numbers on the clock in the upper right.
The examination of the underdrawing through infrared reflectography reveals that the artist may have used a pricked cartoon or cartoons to transfer his design from a model drawing to panel. The background landscape, on the other hand, is clearly applied freehand. However, the landscape has been transformed by the artist after the initial underdrawing stage into a scene quite different to that originally conceived. The final painted landscape shows aspects of the Legend of Saint Jerome as recounted by Jacques De Voragine that are mainly depicted in horizontal versions of the composition, making the studied version a particularly unusual example of its type.
The study also confirms that the support is in excellent condition and that the ground and paint layers are in a reasonable state. There are, however, some scattered small losses, and abrasion damage to the landscape background, beard of Saint Jerome and hanging towel.
Finally, the study situates the work in a wider corpus of depictions of Saint Jerome. The melancholic pose of the saint is inspired by a model from Albrecht Dürer, while the composition derives from paintings by Joos Van Cleve and Pieter Coecke van Aelst. The painting clearly replicates an already existing and standardized composition found in many versions of the theme produced in Antwerp during the period. Stylistically the painting is close the style of Pieter Coecke van Aelst but cannot be firmly attributed to him. Nonetheless, the study establishes the high quality of the work, which would appear to be one of the best versions of its type.