After the death of his father at the young age of five, Allori became the adopted son and pupil of Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), and like his mentor, he enjoyed the patronage of the Medici and other elite citizens of the city of Florence. Evidenced in much of Allori’s work is his reverence for the masters that preceded him as well as the influence of the artistic environment thriving around him, and the present work is no exception. Here, the dynamic musculature of Saint Jerome recalls the figures of Michelangelo, whose works Allori studied on a sojourn to Rome from 1554-1560, while the detailed vegetation around the cave and in the landscape echoes the meticulous observation found in works by his northern contemporaries, a number of whom were active in Bronzino’s studio.
Despite its small size, the present composition is exquisitely detailed. Clearly visible is Allori’s extraordinary ability to paint varying textures on a small scale, from the coolness of the stone cave to the warmth and vigor of Jerome’s musculature body, and from the to the loose billowing folds of his red cloth to the minutely rendered foliage and landscape in the distance. Allori's distinct and detailed technique was a defining characteristic of his prolific career, and the artistic prowess in the present work foreshadows that of Allori's mature career, as seen in his later panel of the same subject today in the Princeton University Art Museum.3
1. This faint signature, location, and inscription in the lower left corner of the copper plate is stylistically consistent with those found on other works by Allori. For example, Allori's Susanna and the Elders in the Musée Magnin is signed ALEXANDER AL/RIVS. C. FLO / ANG / LI BRONZIN / ALUMNUS / FAVIEBAT / ADMD.LXI. See Giovannoni 1991, p. 220, cat. no. 18. His Baptism of Christ in the National Gallery, Prague, is signed ALEXANDER ALLORIVS C. FLO. FACIEBAT MDLXX, ibid., p. 226, cat. no. 26.
2. The former: oil on canvas, 59 by 74 cm. See S.L. Giovannoni, Alessandro Allori, Turin 1991, p. 233, cat. no. 43, reproduced fig. 79. The latter: oil on copper, 39.5 by 30 cm., ibid., p. 232, cat. no. 41, reproduced fig. 77.
3. Inv. no. y1987-24, oil on panel, 52.7 by 41.6 cm, dated 1606. See ibid, p. 193, cat. no. 173, reproduced fig. 404.
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