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The Penitent St. Jerome
Historians tend to remember St. Jerome (c. 342–420) for his many contributions to biblical scholarship, chief among them the Vulgate, his profoundly influential Latin translation of the Bible. But in this painting, Renaissance artist Lorenzo Lotto (c. 1480–1556) focuses on a different aspect of Jerome’s complex personality. The scholar’s books are there, yes—but rather than depicting a dispassionate academic, Lotto conveys the spiritual fervor of a man whose intellectual interests were matched by his commitment to ascetic ideals.
Never fully at home among the comforts of civilization, Jerome spent several years of his life as a hermit in the Syrian wilderness. There he fasted and practiced other austerities, even though, by his own admission, he continued to wrestle with worldly desires.

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