In a 1995 article, Ellen Konowitz identified a core group of five paintings formerly attributed to the Antwerp glass-painting designer and graphic artist Dirk Vellert (c. 1480/85-1547), to serve as the foundation for building a corpus for a distinct artistic personality working in Antwerp in the late-15th century (op. cit., pp. 177-190). Though this group certainly shows Vellert's influence, the paintings have much more in common with Antwerp Mannerist painters. As the artist's many idiosyncratic tendencies--such as a preference for quivering contour lines, a bright color palette and muscular figure types--are most recognizable in a beautiful panel of the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, Konowitz named him the Master of the Lille Adoration.
In the present painting, Saint Jerome appears in his study with an open book and spectacles on the desk before him, items alluding to Jerome's erudition and his translation of the Bible into Latin. The unusual combination of three separate iconographical traditions--Saint Jerome in penance, Saint Jerome as a scholar within his study, and Saint Jerome as a witness to a divine vision--may have originated with Joos van Cleve, an artist who strongly influenced the Master of the Lille Adoration. The earliest instance of such blended iconography in Joos's oeuvre is the Saint Jerome that was formerly in the Bononi Cereda collection, Milan (present location unknown), which was likely the point of departure for the present painting (see J.O. Hand, Joos van Cleve, New Haven and London, 2004, pp. 94-95, 162, no. 79, fig. 99; see also E. Konowitz, op. cit., p. 182). As in Joos's picture, a muscular saint of a type inspired by Jan Gossart is represented wearing a sleeveless shirt with his chest exposed. He holds a rock in his right hand, a reference when in the wilderness he repeatedly struck himself to overcome visions of the secular pleasures of Rome. On the shelf behind is a stoppered carafe, often interpreted as a symbol of the Virgin Mary's purity.
The clouds at upper left link the painting to a lost pendant. As Peter van den Brink has argued about another version of this composition, also by the Master of the Lille Adoration (on loan to the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge), the present Saint Jerome originally would have been paired with a painting of the Holy Trinity set against a background of clouds (see J.O. Hand, et al., Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych, exhibition catalogue, New Haven and London, 2006, p. 151, no. 22). Van den Brink has further noted that the pairing of a Saint Jerome with the vision of the Gnadenstuhl, or Passional Trinity, has a precedent in Andrea del Castagno's fresco of 1454-1455 in the church of the Santissima Annunziata, Florence.