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St Jerome
(Hermanos Garcia)

Description

JERÓNIMO FRANCISCO GARCÍA
AND MIGUEL JERÓNIMO GARCÍA,
CALLED THE ‘HERMANOS’ GARCÍA
(Granada c. 1580 – 1634?)
5. The Penitent Saint Jerome (1628)
Terracotta, polychromed
59 x 37 x 15 cm (approx. 23 ¼ x 14 ½ x 6 in.)
Dated on the verso, incised into the clay: a 19 de/ maio de/ 1628
PROVENANCE: Daniel Katz, London
Seated upon a rocky outcrop, his pet lion sleeping in a nook below, Saint Jerome is shown nude,
half-draped in a red mantle, his cardinal’s hat laid beside him. His hands are clasped in prayer
and his gaze is directed slightly upwards and beyond, in contemplation of a makeshift crucifix.
Here, the brothers have chosen to portray the saint in his role as an anchorite, a particularly
ascetic type of hermit, placing the modelled figure of the saint and his rocky seat against a flat pictorial
background painted to suggest a cave, or a hollow in a wooded rocky outcrop. The crucifix in the
background is rendered to simultaneously appear firmly planted in the rocks and floating against the
cloudy skies of background. Also visible in the landscape is the suggestion of distant seas or a lake, and
verdant mountains, perhaps to illustrate an imaginary idyll far from the privations of Jerome’s cave.
Here again, we see the brothers apply their proven skill in miniaturist landscape painting to add depth
and freshness to their sculpted composition.
Born in Dalmatia around the middle of the fourth century, Jerome studied in Rome, where he learned
Latin. He is chiefly venerated as the translator of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin, the socalled
Vulgate Bible. A tireless scholar, he promoted an ascetic lifestyle and often lived for long periods
as an anchorite. He died in Bethlehem in AD 420. The Church recognized him as one of the Latin
Doctors of the Church, along with Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Ambrose and Saint Gregory. The
earliest representations of the saint date from the Middle Ages and his iconography was developed
chiefly around his reputation as a dedicated and reclusive scholar of holy writ, so he was generally
represented in an interior, reading or writing, and dressed in heavy, often luxurious robes. Conversely,
in representations of his eremite life, which became popular in the fifteenth century, Jerome appears
covered only by a red mantle. The attendant lion, which figures equally in both interior/scholar and
exterior/anchorite compositions, and is often shown sleeping at his feet, like a large house cat, refers to
the episode recorded in the Golden Legend, in which Jerome’s compassion for the injured beast earned
him its tame devotion. Here, the head and a single claw of the sleeping lion are just visible, nestled in
a hollow at the lower right and almost hidden by a fold of the red mantle. The saint, rocks, mantle, hat
and lion were modelled in a single mass, and set against a painted background that serves to give
context to the scene, as well as to highlight the sculpted forms.

The saint’s face is modelled with careful attention to the individual features. The domed brow, slightly
furrowed in concentration, the articulated ears that follow the downward line of the knitted eyebrows,
the upward roll of the eyes and slightly parted lips are all delicately and distinctly moulded, and yet
seamlessly make up an expressive, almost psychological portrait of the saint. The age and gravitas
expressed in Jerome’s face are seamlessly juxtaposed with the musculature of the torso, subtly modelled
to suggest both the flaccidity of age and the strength of youth, a dichotomy that is also suggested by
the tension of the tightly clasped hands, held close to the face, which contrast with the relaxed pose of
the slightly extended legs, crossed at the ankles. In this work, the brothers appear to have added a
further dimension to Jerome’s recognizable anchorite role to depict the saint as not only a devout
intellectual, but also a tired and aged man, who now longs for his soul’s release from the physical world.
Such an approach to the subject would have been entirely in keeping with the sculpture’s original
intended purpose, which was probably for a private oratory, where it could have been closely
appreciated.
The modelling of the hair, particularly around the bald pate, and the beard, is more naturalistic than
the more Mannerist solution the brothers employed in another version of the subject in Madrid in the
Granados Collection.1 Here, the beard is divided into two sinuously tapered sections and its transition
to the modelling of the face shows evident tracks of the modelling stick; a feature that is also evident
in another version in the San Jerónimo Monastery in Granada, which was formerly attributed to Alonso
Cano (Fig. 5),2 but which should now be recognized as an autograph work by the brothers dating to
the 1620s. Several other similar versions of the subject in Granada, Madrid and elsewhere, also
executed in polychromed terracotta and featuring flat pictorial backgrounds, have traditionally been
attributed to Alonso Cano, again based on the received wisdom that any works in this particular
technique of such high quality, made in seventeenth-century Granada could only be by Cano. This
prejudice was given further weight by Cano’s recognized penchant for including deep red draperies in
both his painted and sculpted works.3 However, we believe that the aforementioned 1619 work in
Puerto Rico, the present exhibited work from 1628, and the sculpture in the San Jerónimo Monastery
in Granada attributed to Cano should all be ascribed to the brothers, who, indeed, must therefore be
credited with introducing this version of the Penitent Saint Jerome to seventeenth-century Granadine
sculpture.
Again, it should be underlined that despite being Granadine by birth, Cano moved to Seville when he
was thirteen, where he trained as an architect, painter and sculptor in the workshops of Francisco
Pacheco and Juan Martínez Montañés. Cano lived in Seville until 1637, when he was summoned to
court by the Conde Duque de Olivares, but it was not until 1652 that he finally re-established his career
in Granada, subsequently forming what came to be known as the School of Granada. During the 1620s
when the present exhibited sculpture was made, as well as the versions of the Penitent Saint Jerome and
Saint John the Baptist in Granada, and the other two dated works also exhibited here (cat. nos. 3 and
4), Cano was still in Seville making sculptures under the influence of Martínez Montañés. These
sculptures included such works as, for instance, those he made for the main altarpiece for the Church
of Santa María de la Oliva in Lebrija, which were commissioned in 1629. Therefore, we must reject the traditional attribution to Cano for these polychromed terracotta series since the artist’s documented
biography makes such an attribution impossible. In the versions of the Penitent Saint Jerome, including
the version in the Ponce Museum that is incised with the date ‘En 15 de March 1619’, the saint is in
the same pose and orientation as the works in Granada (San Jerónimo Monastery), Ponce and Madrid
(Granados Collection), although the pose of the lion and the approach to the painted landscape
backgrounds differ.4 There is also the aforementioned very refined version in the Museo Nacional de
Escultura in Valladolid (Fig. 7), which is extremely close to the Penitent Saint Jerome in the Thyssen
Collection (Fig. 6),5 the orientation of the landscape and the pose of the saint’s arms being the only
distinctive differences. Like the present exhibited work, as well as all the aforementioned versions of
this subject, the focus, tone, and modelling of the distinctive red mantle is identical.6 Based on a later
false signature, the Thyssen work has been published as by a follower of Cano. This conclusion would
again have been based on the traditional assumption that only Cano could have been capable of the
work’s evident quality. Nevertheless, together with the work in Valladolid, this work should also be
attributed to the brothers García. The Thyssen sculpture is dated 1633 and we must remind ourselves
that Cano was in Seville in 1633, where he was working in the very different style influenced by
Martínez Montañés. Moreover, this sculpture is in many ways similar to the 1625 Baptist, both in the
pose, overall composition and approach to the painted background. If the date of 1633 is correct, it
would make this sculpture another magnificent example by these enigmatic and innovative brothers –
one which is wholly sympathetic to the works exhibited here – and in consequence their last known
dated work.

1 J. M. PALENCIA CEREZO and J. DEL CAMPO, ‘Alonso Cano,
San Jerónimo penitente’, in Espíritu Barroco. Colección
Granados, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 2008, pp.
178–179. Although this piece should correctly be reassigned
to the Hermanos García the owner has not permitted its
reproduction.
2 This relief, like the present Saint John the Baptist in the
Wilderness (1628; cat. no. 4), is conserved in a small
wooden vitrine. See L. GILA MEDINA, ‘Obras selectas del
Patrimonio Artístico granadino de la época del Arzobispo
Fray Hernando de Talavera (1492–1507)’, in Fray
Hernando de Talavera. V Centenario, 1507–2007,
exhibition catalogue, Curia Metropolitana, Granada 2008,
pp. 83–86. Medina notes that the nuns adhere to the
traditional attribution to Cano, but does not discuss this.
See also C. MARTÍNEZ ET AL., El Real Monasterio de San
Jerónimo, Coll. Acordes, Granada 2006, p. 42. Here, the
work is described as being of exceptional quality, but the
author does not recognize the historical attribution.
3 Such as Alonso Cano’s The Penitent Saint Jerome, c. 1660,
oil on linen, 170 x 225 cm, Granada, Museo des Bellas
Artes.
4 S. STRATTON, Spanish Polychrome Sculpture 1500–1800 in
United States Collections, exhibition catalogue, The Spanish
Institute, New York 1994, pp. 116–117.
5 See M. BAKER, ‘Saint Jerome in Penitence, by a Follower of
Alonso Cano’, in A. RADCLIFFE, M. BAKER and M. MAEKGÉRARD,
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Renaissance
and Later Sculpture, London 1992, pp. 432–434, no. 87
(cat. entry by M. BAKER).
6 This version in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection
portrays the saint in a different pose with the legs held in a
similar position to that of the exhibited 1625 Baptist, but
leaning slightly to the right, his head cast down in mediation
and his right hand to his chest. The later signature: ‘Alº Cº
FA’ is a complete fabrication, or at the very least an erroneous
extrapolation, probably made in the process of restoration
of what could have been the original signature, for example the
original ‘G’ of García having been mistaken for the ‘C’ of
Cano.

Measurements
59 x 37 x 15 cm (approx. 23 ¼ x 14 ½ x 6 in.)
Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720 & Mannerism & Cinquecento - 1530-1600
Subject
Religious: New Testament
School
Spanish
Catalogue
Price band
Sold or not available