St. Jerome in his Study, 1514
engraving on ivory laid paper
24.5 x 18.8 cm
Gift in memory of Margaret Wade Labarge from her collection, 2010
National Gallery of Canada (no. 43104)
"Saint Jerome in his Study" is among Dürer's three "Master Engravings". This subject was tremendously appealing to Renaissance humanists. Dürer first depicted St. Jerome in his study in 1492 for the title page of "Epistolare beati Hieronymi" (published by Nicolaus Kessler), which was reprinted at least seven times in Dürer's lifetime. Innovations introduced by Dürer to the St. Jerome iconography include "vanitas" symbols such as the skull on the window ledge, previously unknown as an object of domestic décor; a hearth brush for sweeping away the ashes of mortality; and an aspergillum containing holy water to fend off temptation. The gourd hanging from the ceiling can be interpreted as a symbol of transience, but it is included for the humanist elite of Dürer's inner circle, who would have recognized that Jerome and Augustine argued over the proper translation of "gourd" in a passage from the Book of Jonah (4:6).