Erasmus and Saint Jerome: The Close Bond and Its Significance
IN THE WALTERS ART GALLERY in Baltimore there is a painting of Saint Jerome in his study by Antonio da Fabriano that is of particular interest. Save for the halo about the head of Jerome, it bears a striking resemblance to the Quentin Metsys portrait of Erasmus that was painted at Antwerp in 1517. The Fabriano painting dates from the mid-fifteenth century, but there is little likelihood that Metsys ever saw it or even knew of it. Fabriano's painting of Jerome in his study, of course, is neither an original nor a unique representation, and there is a long tradition of depicting authors and scholars in such a setting. 1 The similarity between the Metsys and the Fabriano portrayals, however, seems to me especially remarkable. Together the paintings vividly express, I feel, the close and intimate bond that existed between the two great Christian humanists, and they can serve, therefore, as a starting point -- and an iconographic representation, if you will -- for the subject I am going to discuss.
You are familiar, I know, with the Metsys portrait. The extremely pensive figure of Erasmus in black cloak and cap
Parts of this essay appear in the Introduction to CWE 61, Patristic Scholarship: The Edition of St. Jerome, edd. James F. Brady and John C. Olin ( Toronto, 1992), a volume particularly relevant and supplementary to this essay.