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. Here he is 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 where one might 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 (see previous lot), 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, and the fly whisk can be read as a reference to the devil. Yet while the knight is physically confronted with death and the devil, Saint Jerome comtemplates them in the quiet and warmth of his study.
It is the bright sunlight (still out-shone by the saint's halo) falling through the windows and filling the room with warmth, described by Dürer with dazzling virtuosity, which is the formal theme of this print, and which make it one of the most charming and best-loved of all of Dürer's engravings.