This decorative piece features an incredible amount of detail when considering the small size of the canvas, which measures just 17cm tall by 23cm wide. The item now resides at the National Gallery in London, UK having previously been on show at the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge. It was purchased through the collaboration of a number of charitable bodies who sought to bolster the collection of this important national gallery which focuses most on pre-19th century art. The same gallery also owns The Madonna with the Iris and The Artist's Father, and also delivered an impressive exhibition of the artist's work in late 2021. The popularity of this artist's career has meant that over the centuries his work has been dispersed right across the world, with most residing within Europe and North America. One of the attractions of this artist is that he worked to a high level within a number of different mediums and so the inclusion of his work can help broaden one's collection to cover different styles and techniques from the Northern Renaissance.
The painting itself features Saint Jerome looking off into the distance whilst holding a book in his right hand. Clothes lay on the ground whilst a lion looks on from behind him. Further back we see a sprawling landscape typical of Northern Europe and a bright sky in the background with a complex arrangement of clouds. All of the items that you might expect for this tale are present here but the style used by the artist helps to make Durer's interpretation somewhat unique - naturally, this theme has been covered many times across a large number of artist's careers and was most common within the Renaissance and Baroque eras when religious themes were used the most. Durer himself studied the work of different artists by travelling frequently around Europe and this enabled him to implement a variety of different influences within his work. He had a particular way of building up landscape backgrounds with a really precise manner which helps us to identify some of his work very easily.
This particular artwork featured another design of the back, which was much more simplistic but also related to this piece on the front. It is known by many as Heavenly Body in the Night Sky. It was not until fairly recently, the 1950s, that this small double-sided painting was actually confirmed as having been from Durer's hand. If we compare it to another depiction of a Lion by this artist, the connection is obvious, but other evidence was also uncovered at the time through a variety of research methods. We do know that Mantegna and Bellini were key influences on this artist's work after he had travelled to Italy on numerous occasions. With regards Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, it may be the use of contrasting tones of red and blue which provide one example of that influence within this particular painting. In terms of the content found here which you might not be able to spot from images of it, there is the tamed lion, a hat with cardinal clothing and the book is believed to refer to Jerome's role as a translator. The garments being laid on the floor represent his rejection of 'earthly honours' and similar iconography has been used by other artists when covering this topic.