St. Jerome and Pope Damasus: A Wishful Glimpse at the Past

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Analysis of Guercino's 17th-century painting St. Jerome Sealing a Letter in its historical and political context shows that it was intended to affirm the authority of the papacy over a united Christian world. This work constitutes a striking departure from the contemporary iconography of this saint, who is commonly known as a penitent, because it depicts him occupied with the profane activity of letter writing rather than with one of the three stages of the sacrament of penance. An envelope included in the composition is inscribed with the name of Pope Damasus I, who did much to heighten papal supremacy in both the eastern and western parts of the Roman Empire. The association of this pope with one of the four Latin Fathers of the Church at a time when Catholics were engaged in a bitter struggle with Protestants paralleled the relationship between the pope and his servants—Monsignor Costanzo Patrizi and Cardinal Giacomo Serra—and their common goal to achieve victory over the spread of Protestantism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
JournalAurora: the journal of the history of art
StatePublished - 2004


  • Ikonographie
  • Malerei
  • Italien


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