Da Vinci’s ‘Saint Jerome in the Desert’ Restored and on Display

Tags: Currents Art, Art History, Artwork, Faith, Inspiration, Vatican, Vatican Museums, World News

Currents News Staff 

In March of 2019, the Vatican paid tribute to Leonardo Da Vinci on the 500th anniversary of his death with a free exhibition of one of his most important pieces, ‘Saint Jerome in the Desert.’

Until June 22, pilgrims from all over the world were able to admire the piece. It was the first time the artwork was shown outside the Vatican Museums.

“Five hundred years have passed since Leonardo Da Vinci’s death and next year will be 500 years since Raphael’s. So all the museums in the world are working to celebrate these two important dates with dignity. The Vatican is fortunate to have the only Roman work by Leonardo Da Vinci,” said Guido  Cornin, Scientific Delegate of the Vatican Museums. 

The piece, done between 1486 and 1490, shows St. Jerome repenting in the desert. He is dressed as a hermit, about to hit his chest with a rock.

Yet, the subject of the work is not as important as the technique Leonardo used to paint the background.

“The background of the painting is a sketch. It is unfinished, but shows the first indications of a rocky, chipped landscape. We later learn to recognize it in Leonardo’s other works like ‘The Virgin of the Rocks,’ ‘The Virgin and St. Anne’ or in the ‘Mona Lisa,’” Cornini explained.

The exhibition included interactive panels that explain and allow the visitor to “interact” with the artist. In addition to the canvas, the exhibition displayed the only document that proves that Leonardo Da Vinci spent a period of his life in Rome.

“It proves Leonardo’s presence in Rome in 1513. It is a payment he made to Giuliano Reno. He was an architect who helped other artists, like Bramante, on Vatican works. It is the only explicit document that proves the presence of Leonardo in Rome,” Cornini said.

The Vatican Museums restored the piece so that it could be exhibited around the world. After its time in Rome, it will be displayed in New York starting in July 2019, and then in Paris.