St. Jerome in Penitence, c. 1500-1507
oil and tempera on canvas
103.1 x 136.4 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 3699)
Montagna depicts Jerome baring his breast with his left hand, about to strike it with the rock held in his right. Contrary to other representations, the saint kneels, not in the desert but in a herbal garden seen against a topographical setting resembling the artist's native Vicenza. The garden and the buildings prominently displayed at the right link the painting with the Gesuati hermits in Vicenza, who were known for their herbal remedies and for a cordial made with lemon balm. The parrot is a pun on their custom of constantly repeating the name of Jesus. At the right is the church of S. Girolamo, completed in 1491 but demolished in 1728, on the facade of which Montagna is recorded as having painted a fresco of St. Jerome in a landscape.