The composition follows a tradition that is thought to have been established by Gerard David. Although no securely attributed work by David of this type exists, two high quality pictures from his workshop are known: that in the National Gallery, London (inv. no. 2596), and that in the Städelsches Institut, Frankfurt (inv. no. 1091; possibly by David himself). The London painting is thought to be a version of a lost David type that is in turn believed to be the source for the models adopted by Benson and the painters of the Ysenbrandt group. Both latter artists were close followers of David, working in his studio as assistants, and they and their own associates would have thereby become familiar with David's model.
The present picture is much closer to the examples of Saint Jerome painted by the Ysenbrandt group (the quality of the works traditionally given to whom being so varied that a single author seems improbable), for example that in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg (inv. no. 436), rather than the Benson type (most notably that of the central panel of the tritpych in the John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia). It is interesting that Isenbrandt himself is believed to have been born in Antwerp, a hypothesis that would explain the apparently close connection between the author of the Hermitage panel with that of the present work.
The oeuvre of the anonymous Master of the Female Half-Lengths has been much debated and is now believed to represent in large part the product of a workshop, specializing particularly in small-scale panels of aristocratic young ladies in half-length and devotional scenes as well as landscapes that clearly show the influence of Joachim Patinir, with whose work they were for a long time confused. The present work is a fine example of this latter type and is closely comparable stylistically to another landscape from the workshop, also depicting Saint Jerome and apparently by the same hand, recorded by Friedländer as sold from the collection of Dr. Störi, Zurich, 1929, and now of unknown location (Early Netherlandish Painting, XII, Leiden and Brussels, 1975, p. 98, no. 79, fig. 40).
The place and period of the Master's activity have been widely disputed: suggestions have ranged from Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Mechelen to the French court, with dates from the early- to the late-sixteenth century. Friedländer and Koch both placed the workshop in Antwerp and Mechelen in the 1520s and 1530s, owing to the closeness of the landscapes to those of Joachim Patinir and the similarity of the female types to those of Barent van Orley. Koch believed that the artist may have been trained in Patinir's shop in Antwerp in circa 1520. This proposal has since been accepted (for at least the hand within the workshop responsible for the central group of landscapes) by a number of writers, who have tried to identify that hand in the background landscapes of paintings by Antwerp artists such as Quinten Metsys (e.g. the Virgin and Child in a Landscape in the National Museum, Poznan). At least one instance is known where the artist painted the landscape background for Jan Gossaert, in a Madonna and Child in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, which is dated 1532, representing the latest secure date for the group.
The workshop's proximity to Patinir is particularly noticeable in the present work, given its links with the celebrated triptych of The Penitence of Saint Jerome by Patinir in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 36.14a-c). Although the landscape itself is closer to that of the St. Petersburg Ysenbrandt (noticeably the inclusion of the river landscape with a two-arched bridge and forward farmhouse), elements of the present work - in particular the inclusion of the camel and ass as well as the gesture of the Saint holding open his robe) would seem to suggest an awareness of Patinir's work. The dates of the Hermitage painting (c. 1520) and the Metropolitan triptych (c. 1516-20) might therefore also suggest a similar tentative dating for the present work.