The Power of Absolution: Bernini’s St. Jerome

Lara Belfield

Figure 10: Bernini, "St. Jerome," 1661-1663, Chigi Chapel, Siena Cathedral, Siena.  Photo Credit: Boots in the Oven

Figure 10: Bernini, “St. Jerome,” 1661-1663, Chigi Chapel, Siena Cathedral, Siena.
Photo Credit: Boots in the Oven

Bernini’s St. Jerome embodies the emotion of an intense religious experience (fig. 10).  His eyes are closed as he internalizes his experience while gently holding onto the crucifix.  Similar to the St. Mary Magdalen, the St. Jerome figure’s body is curved into an S-shape to suggest greater movement.  His left leg is bent and resting on his attribute of the lion, mirroring the position of the St. Mary Magdalen.  His right hip juts out slightly, indicating that he is moving in that direction.  The way in which some of his drapery billows out to his left, almost as if it has been caught by a breeze, also suggests that he is in the process of moving to his right.  Proportionally, the lion is small compared to the size of St. Jerome, and appears to sleep peacefully despite being held under Jerome’s foot.