Saint Jerome was one of the fathers of the Church and author of the Vulgate - the early 5th century version of the Bible in Latin. By Dürer's time he had, as a scholar and Latinist, become an iconic figure for the humanists. He is here immediately identifiable by his attributes, the cardinal's hat and the lion, as he sits writing at his desk in a small chamber. It is a friendly room and one would feel welcome, were it not for the lion and a sleeping dog guarding the entrance, and the wooden bench turned away from us as if to shield the saint from any intrusion.
Dated 1514, Saint Jerome in his Study was engraved one year after Knight, Death and the Devil (lot 99), and like the earlier print it is full of reminders of death: the human skull on the window ledge, the crucifix on the desk, the candle and the hour glass, while the fly whisk can be read as a reference to the devil.
Together with Melencolia I (see the following lot), these three engravings have long been known as the 'Master Prints'. The term is appropriate as Dürer undoubtedly reached the height of his capacities as an engraver. Aside from their technical excellence, the prints are also connected by their near-identical format and their concentration on a single figure in a highly complex, richly symbolic environment. If, as has been suggested, they represent the three different modes of virtuous living, Saint Jerome depicts the lonely, quiet life of the man of letters. (See also the notes for lot 99 and lot 101.)