St. Jerome in his Study is a profoundly detailed engraving by Albrecht Durer. I personally like this print because it so detailed at every point. I also appreciate the picture due to the quality of craftsmanship required to complete something of the engraving’s magnitude. Engraving at this time was limited to two colors black and white. Using two colors limits different color and light in the print. This Print reminds me of my own scholastic environment. I need a place to study that is unique to my own comfort. Durer attempts to depict St. Jerome’s personal study, with random tools and attributes placed uniquely all around.
I don’t have attributes, because obviously I am no saint, however I do have a certain things that I enjoy listening too or looking at while I am reading, studying, researching, or just relaxing. Just like St. Jerome I have my bed and many pillows in my study. This piece in my mind brought comparison between a study now in the 21st century compared to a 4th century study in a 16th century architectural structure. I personally feel the artist of the engraving put certain objects in certain places to give the depiction of St. Jerome studying in his study. The attributes and objects are uniquely his own. The study in this print looks as if it may be a corner of larger room because the shelf on the back wall cuts off; but the wall could continue. Also on the bottom left of the print there is a big cement pillar, when looking carefully at the bottom left corner there is symmetrically equal shading across the pillar. Suggesting there is another window directly on the left right before the pillar. The stair case could just be and entrance way from another room. It is hard to determine because of the color and shade is not one hundred percent distinct Engravings like this leave a lot of space for interpretation due to the contrasting problems between light and color.
Working with engravings has many disadvantages, because the engraving print only comes in limited colors, black, grey, and white. Color and bright light help bring out more emphasis on areas or the whole print itself. Since color cannot be displayed, the contrast from black to white is the only way to represent light, shadow, and physical detail in the picture. In the case of St. Jerome in his Study the limited colors actually benefit the detail of the print. The engraving uses light and shadow often to display depth and vivid detail. Where the lighter colors are the objects of that area are detailed. Durer uses the contrast of black and white to give sequence to the viewer’s focal attention while viewing this print. When looking directly at the picture the areas with lighter or brighter colors grab your attention immediately with extreme detail. Darker or dimmer engravings normally have detail in environment and a definite form of depth. The center of the picture is St. Jerome working at his table. Surrounding him are objects that one might find in his study, including some of his saintly attributes. The center of the print is at the back of the study. Details shown by light and shadowing bring out the depth of the study.
The light source in this print comes directly from the windows. The study is only lit up in certain areas where the light would shine through the windows into the room; these areas are given extreme detail in their appearance. The windows the light comes through are not normal blank windows. They are windows that are sub-divided into about twenty five equal square pieces, which appear to have some loop or circle stained into the glass. The light shining through reflects these shapes on the side of the windowsill. Each stained sub-division of the window has a shadow on the windowsill in its proper geometrical position. Other examples of the shadows being proportional to the light source is St. Jerome’s desk, and the shadow of the big blocked separation between the two windows on the left side up on the middle of the ceiling. All shadows match up theoretically where they should for there given position, but there is one spot on the ceiling where there is no shadow and there is supposed to be. On the ceiling directly above St. Jerome’s head is a solid bright light source. The halo on his head is another point brought to the viewer’s attention right upon viewing the print. The places where the light was shining are more visible to the viewer.
The wood on the ceiling is engraved quite extraordinary. Durer engraved so much detail the grooves and knots are seen on the wood ceiling; other woods not on the ceiling have carvings of designs and are quite exquisite. Some parts of the wood are engraved in great detail and can be seen by carefully observing. Even parts in dark regions can make out some detail. Parts of the ceiling beams and borders even in dark regions are darker and still have detail. The beams and border of the ceiling have a special pattern to them showing great engraving craftsmanship by the artist. The horizontal bar of the window has a shadow on the windowsill’s wall, which is positioned quite well for a small engraving. There are many other details in this engraving to notice, for example the chipped stone from the windowsill’s and the cracked wall in the back left of the study. The highly refined woodwork of the shelves on the back wall of the study has many complicated designs as well as engraved handles.
Details like these raise questions and assumption to the peaceful room. Light shines directly to St. Jerome’s desk in the middle of the study. St. Jerome is placed in the center of the engraving, where the lighter color is most intense. It is most intense there because of the halo on his head and the light from the windows beaming down on his forehead. More light is concentrated on the top of St. Jerome’s head because his head is angled towards the light, the crucifix, and downward at his book. The artist emphasizes on St. Jerome’s eyes, his eyes have the highest concentration of white in them. Other than his head St. Jerome’s body is hidden in the darkness of the shadow. The table prevents any light from really shining on his body, but looking closely at his body and his feet, he is wearing robe of some sort and he is also wearing shoes which is unique because there are a pair of slipper on the floor under the bench next to him. St. Jerome is the central figure in this print, but yet he has the least detail compared to other objects in the room. This raises questions of why St. Jerome is portrayed this way.
There are many different effects caused by the white and black of engraving. The main is distinguishing the different areas of light and shadow. Lighter colors are seen before the darker colors, in an engraving. This causes someone to view a print in an artist intended sequence. The objects shown in lighter colors are located in the light source in the engraving. The objects shown in darker colors are not emphasized enough or not placed in the source of light. In St. Jerome’s study there are many random objects that placed in the light giving them a whiter color. There are eight objects total that have light on them or being represented in a lighter color, St. Jerome, a lion, a dog, a gourd, a cardinal’s hat, hour glass, and a skull. These items all are in light colors because they are either in the sunlight or they are just being a little more emphasized. All of these different items are in different sizes and depths. Although the objects are different in sizes and depth, all of them seem to be proportional to their actual size. The lion is at the very bottom of the floor in the front of the room in a laying position. The lion takes a good amount of space in the bottom portion of the picture showing great emphasis on his presence. The Lions main is shown in great detail along with many other features. Although the lion seems to be looking at you his eyes are not visible in any form. The gourd is hanging from the ceiling. The artist shows the gourd hanging form the very front ceiling border. The gourd is the most right object shown in a lighter white color. The gourd shows texture based on the lines all around the gourd. On the back wall behind St. Jerome is a cardinal’s hat. This hat is very large with two darker tassels hanging off it. Depending on what angle you look, it may appear that the halo actually is the light source shown on the hat. Right next to the hat is an hour glass with refined detail in the wood surrounding the glass. The closest object in emphasis near St. Jerome is a modest wood looking crucifix at the right corner of his desk. The crucifix is the smallest object with emphasis on it. There is not a lot of detail even on the cross it’s very simplistic. The windowsill on the right of St. Jerome has a skull not very large in size. The skull for some reason is missing its mandible. The skull is directly in the light, so the contours of the skull are shown in good detail. The last object in a lighter color surrounding St. Jerome is a dog. The dog is sleeping directly in next to the lion. Just like the lion the dog’s eyes are not visible. The dog is about one-tenth the size of the lion in. Since the artist highlighted all of theses objects the most likely have some sort of meaning to St. Jerome.
These important objects are placed randomly all over the room. Suggesting to a certain degree of what Durer thought St. Jerome’s study could have been, or the objects that would have been in his study. Besides these seven objects of lighter color, there are other tools that are randomly around the study that are unique to St. Jerome’s study. Other random things around the study are books, in a very un-organized manner. These books are very large and even though the picture is dim you can still see some of the pages separation in the bottom of the closed book. The slippers on the floor are not even put down in an orderly fashion. The slippers are in a cross-like format facing the bottom corner of the first windowsill. Some of the tools he may have used in his study are on the back wall and on the back shelf in darker colors, such as scissors, scrolls, papers, hand broom, and a candle. All of these objects bring the idea St. Jerome’s study and the objects are placed randomly through a somewhat tranquil room. The only thing that is not randomly placed is a writing board which is parallel with the right border of the print. On the writing board are Albrecht Durer initials and the year 1514 when the engraving was done. This is the only thing that is not capable of actually being in his study. The writing board ruins the random placement of the objects in this engraving. This writing board was purposely added to bring in the artists name.
Black and white print is hard to represent emphasis on color and some forms of light. The way Durer reflects the lighter and darker colors in a print could possibly cause the viewer to view a work a certain way or in sequence. This contrast leads to more emphasis on the color of objects regardless of the significance. Durer uses different types of detail in order to show depth and texture among some the objects, like the wood of the ceiling or indentations in the gourd. In Albrecht Durer’s engraving he is trying to casually portray St. Jerome’s study.
Durer’s image of St. Jerome in his Study (1514) was one of many favored by northern artists. Durer became one of the most celebrated artists during the German Renaissance because of his depictions of St. Jerome. St. Jerome was responsible for the translation of certain religious texts. St. Jerome was a 4th century saint, but this engraving was not made for another 12 centuries. Germany during this time had many artistic works depicting different Hagiography of Saints. Detail is what makes Durer’s art so fascinating. Why did mostly northern artists portray St. Jerome in his study, compared to him being out in the dessert in despair? Was it because of the way the audience wanted it depicted? The Renaissance was a time of new knowledge or a re-birth in knowledge. Why did the most people want to tribute St. Jerome for? St. Jerome did translations of the bible and other religious documents to other languages, which made the spread of one religion a very realistic thing. Language difference was no longer a barrier among certain belief systems. In general people have tributes in a scholarly way rather than a sad and despair way. Attributes of saints are highly emphasized and given reason or an explanation of how they acquired them. If interpreting the meaning of the object, the explanations or reasons for there attributes would certainly be helpful when interpreting the meaning of the object. The rebirth in old documents was large during the Renaissance; everyone wanted ways of learning classical information. Naturally people would depict a scholar who translated religious documents If ever interpreting Durers meaning in his work the question would be why St. Jerome, why not any other what is the correlation between northern Europe and St. Jerome. What is the difference between him in the dessert or in his study?