Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cats in Art: St. Jerome in His Study (Durer)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the 2nd of 3 posts on the art of Albrecht Durer.

Image credit Albrecht-Durer site, St. Jerome in His Study, 1514, engraving, 10" x 7", held by Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, New York.

First, a word about St. Jerome, who I never heard of before (or should that be whom....grammar was never my strong suit?).  There are any number of biographical pieces on him that are long and boring, but here's a snippet that I liked (you should check out the whole thing):

Most of the saints are remembered for some outstanding virtue or devotion which they practiced, but Jerome is frequently remembered for his bad temper! It is true that he had a very bad temper and could use a vitriolic pen, but his love for God and his Son Jesus Christ was extraordinarily intense; anyone who taught error was an enemy of God and truth, and St. Jerome went after him or her with his mighty and sometimes sarcastic pen.

Oh, and by the way, St. Jerome is the patron saint of librarians. 

Back to the image: as we saw last week, another tiny engraving with incredible detail, and in this one as in last week's image, the kitty is again quite prominent.  The kitty, of course, being a lion.  Seems that back in the day, lions roamed the Middle East, and St. Jerome traveled extensively in Palestine, and in fact spent some soul-searching time alone in the backcountry, writing the following letter:

In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the scorching sun so that it frightens even the monks that inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. In this exile and prison to which for the fear of hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, I many times imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them: In my cold body and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion was able to live. Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was ("Letter to St. Eustochium").

Anyway, you gotta like a guy associated with librarians, who kept a lion in his study, and loved the backcountry as we do.

No comments:

Post a Comment