This highly refined and luminous Saint Jerome in the desert was executed by Arpino circa 1600, when the artist was at the height of his popularity and overseeing the prestigious decoration of the transept of Saint John Lateran. Executed on panel, it demonstrates all of the hallmark qualities for which d'Arpino was renowned. The foliage, in particular, is beautifully rendered in minute detail and lush green pigments. This element of the composition compares well with the artist's glowing Rest on the Flight into Egypt in the Galleria Borghese (fig. 1). Furthermore, in its employment of a sweeping rocky landscape, and overall muted color range, the present picture also reveals its debt to Flemish landscape painting, and in particular that of Frederick van Valckenborch and Paul Bril, the latter of which was active in Rome for most of his career. This work has in fact previously been attributed to both artists, in each case based on comparison with a similarly composed Saint Jerome on canvas, also in the Galleria Borghese. That comparable work is one of six sopra porte (over-door) landscapes that formed part of Arpino’s personal collection. Herwarth Röttgen, who endorses the attribution of this painting to Cavaliere d'Arpino, now suggests that Arpino's pupil Flaminio Allegrini may in fact be the author of the Borghese canvas.
A copy of Professor Röttgen's certificate is available upon request.
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