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A Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece is coming to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Written by
Howard Halle

This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the death Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), one of the greatest—if not the greatest—artists of all time, and to honor the occasion, The Metropolitan Museum Of Art is bringing one of Leonardo's masterpieces to New York City. From July 15 through October 6, The Met will be exhibiting the artist’s St. Jerome Praying in the Wilderness (begun around 1483), which will be on special loan from the Vatican Museums.

Leonardo da Vinci, St. Jerome Praying in the Wilderness, begun circa 1483
Photograph: Courtesy Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, © Governatorate of the Vatican City State–Vatican Museums

The work portrays St Jerome (A.D. 347–420), one of the key theologians of the early Christian Church, during a two-year period when he lived as a hermit in a desert in Syria. Leonardo has him seated, holding a rock in one hand, which he used to beat his chest in penance, according to lore. Likewise, tradition holds that the lion curled in front of Jerome became his companion after the Saint extracted a thorn from the animal’s paw.

Being the consummate Renaissance man and all, Leonardo had many interests, including science, designing weapons for the military and trying to figure the mechanics of flight. Presumably, this distracted him from his art because he sometimes rushed his projects to deleterious effect (a prime example being The Last Supper, which began deteriorating almost immediately after Leonardo abjured traditional methods of painting frescoes in favor an impermanent process of his own) or left them unfinished, as in the case of this painting. As disappointing as this is might seem for Leonardo lovers, it’s been a boon for art historians wanting an X-ray view of the Old Master’s working methods. Even incomplete, St Jerome shows Da Vinci at the height of his powers, and is well worth a visit while you’re checking out The Met’s other exhibitions.

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