MS M.917/945, pp. 242–243

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St. Jerome

The Netherlands, Utrecht
ca. 1440
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm)

Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963

MS M.917/945, pp. 242–243

Wearing the brimmed crimson hat and ermine-lined robes of a cardinal, Jerome holds a book while reaching down to pluck a thorn from the paw of a small lion. The book symbolizes, among abundant other writings, his translation of the Bible into Latin (known as the Vulgate). The story of Jerome's healing the lion was well known in medieval Europe and appears in the Golden Legend. The border takes the form of a trompe-l'oeil processional banner of purple fabric edged with red-and-blue striped cord. The rod holding the banner at the top has two small hands that dangle silver bells. It is also surmounted by a large gold cross, unfortunately trimmed, that may have been the head of a supporting staff.


Suffrages are short prayers to individual saints. As protectors of medieval people, saints were their doctor in plague, their midwife at childbirth, their guardian when traveling, and their nurse during toothache. If the Virgin was the figure to whom one addressed the all-important petition for eternal salvation, it was from saints that one sought more basic or temporal kinds of help. While the Virgin became, as the Mother of God, almost a goddess herself, saints retained more of their humanity and thus their approachability.


Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern