This woodcut, one of the more elaborate and detailed of the smaller woodcuts, is a precursor to the St. Jerome in his Study (lot 100) engraved three years later. Apart from the skull and the dog we find most of the elements of the engraving already depicted here, including the hour glass, the candle, the cushions on the furniture and even tiny details, such as the scissors.
Two preparatory drawings have survived, one in the Ambrosiana, Milan (W. 590) and one in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin (W. 589). In the drawing in Milan Dürer placed the scholarly saint in a large, airy room, while in the Berlin drawing he is shown in a little cell in contemplation of a skull. The woodcut borrows elements from both compositions. The large curtain is a new device, not present in either of the drawings. It is a traditional symbol of majesty, but the way Dürer uses it here also has a theatrical quality; as if the artist pulls the curtain away to reveal the print.