The painting depicts old St. Jerome in Penitence sitting in front of a table of books with sacred texts, alluding to his academic role in church. Jerome was a scholar who translated the Bible into Latin (Vulgate). He was an author, commentator and translator of ancient religious texts, who helped common people to understand the writings.
He was recognized as the Doctor of the Church.
The saint is barely covered by a large red robe which bares his chest and falls on his legs. In his right hand he is holding a stone, which refers to self-punishment, while his left hand is resting on a skull, reminding the inevitability of death and the brevity of existence.
He is depicted as an old man with deep dark circles around his eyes and long white beard. He is illuminated by a lateral light coming from above, which highlights his wrinkled skin consumed by prayers and meditation.
He has turned his face towards the sky. His mouth is half open and he is leaning on a seat covered by a red robe, showing great naturalism. Same can be said for the expression of pain and his old and tired figure with wrinkled skin and naked chest.
Also the objects, like the books with curled pages are represented with raw realism.
The lateral light resembles the light used by Caravaggio and his followers, whose influence can also be seen in the realization of the work. It makes the scene seem taking place inside but the portion of the sky on the top right suggests otherwise.
The subject was not new to Rutilio Manetti, who had already painted the saint with angels in another canvas, which is owned by Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena (1628, inv. 7114) and St. Jerome in Meditation (Sotheby’s London, October 28 1988, lot. no. 161).
The painting comes from the antiques market. It was found by Carlo Del Bravo in 1966, who attributed the work to Rutilio Manetti. In May 1968 it was auctioned in Finarte di Milano (lot. n. 16) and sold to Galleria Felice Donà Delle Trezze in Milan and then to a private collection in Pescia, near Pistoia, Tuscany.
Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena bought the painting in July 2008.
Rutilio Manetti was born in Siena in 1571. According to biographer Giulio Mancini he studied in Siena with Francesco Vanni and Ventura Salimbeni, Sienese painters of Roman Mannerism who were influenced by the works of Federico Barocci.
In the mid-17th century Manetti studied the works of Caravaggio and his followers, who deeply influenced his paintings in his later period.
Rutilio’s first important commissions were the frescoes with the Stories of St. Catherine in Sala del Consiglio in Palazzo Pubblico in Siena (1596) and the Stories of Bishop Antonio Piccolomini (1598). Between 1599 and 1600 he painted the processional banner for the church of San Giovannino in Pantaneto with the Baptism of Jesus and Jesus Blessing St. John. The works were influenced by his masters and Barocci, and the Florentine painting by Jacopo Da Empoli, Passignano and Bernardino Poccetti.
In his following works he used Mannerism and Roman influences by Federico Zuccari and Cavalier d’Arpino. He began to deepen the use of light and bright colors with cangiantismo. This can be seen in The Beheading of St. Paul (Rome, Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Antica) in the beginning of the 1610s’, when he started to study the use of light in Caravaggio’s works.
In 1605 he began the decoration of the frescoes in the church of San Rocco, with a cycle of stories of the saint, which he finished in 1610. At the same time he continued to paint canvases and altarpieces which were in great demand in Siena and in other cities. In 1612 he worked in the churches of San Silvestro and San Frediano in Pisa and in the following year he painted the portraits of Blessed Pietro Petroni and Stefano Baconi for Certosa in Firenze. In Maggiano he painted St. Margaret Healed By Angels (1615).
In this period he also worked on The Immaculate with St. Jude the Apostle and Carlo Borromeo for the cathedral of San Cerbone in Massa Marittima. There he also painted Madonna and Child with Saints and the Visitation of the Virgin to St. Elizabeth.
In his later phase he reduced the contrasts of colors to maintain more pronounced plasticity, deeper shadows and Caravaggio style naturalism that became more evident since the beginning of the century.
There were strong influences of Gentileschi, Orazio and Artemisia. Bartolomeo Manfredi, Cecco del Caravaggio and foreign painters Simon Vouet, Valentin de Boulogne, Gerrit van Hontorst and Dirk van Baburen, which could be seen in works such as the Crucifixion in San Giacomo in Salicotto in Siena or in the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, which Rutilio signed and dated in 1621 for San Pietro alle Scale in Siena. In this period he painted the naturalistic depictions of saints and profane themes such as the Allegory of the Four Seasons and Ruggiero and Alcina (Florence, Palatina Gallery) which he painted between 1622 and 1623 for the Medici Casino of Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici.
In these years he painted also Sophonisba and Massinissa (Galleria degli Uffizi), Loth and His Daughters (Rome, Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Antica in Palazzo Corsini; Valencia, Museo Bellas Artes) and the Musicians and Card Players (Siena, Chigi-Saraceni Collection).
Manetti continued his activity especially in Siena area until his death in his hometown in 1639.
Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation was established on August 28, 1995 with the conferment of banking activity and it is the oldest bank in the world still operating.
The headquarters is in Palazzo Sansedoni of Piazza del Campo, Siena, and the main mission is to carry out philanthropic activities in cultural, artistic and environmental sectors.
The foundation owns and preserves two collections: the collection of Artworks and Malandrini collection of photographs. Both collections can be found on digital version online.
The artwork collection includes 57 pieces representing prestigious examples of Sienese art, some of which have been lost for centuries. A special committee of scholars and art historians was set up to identify the works of Sienese school between the 13th and 18th century. Among the artworks there are Segna di Bonaventura’s Madonna with Child Enthroned, St. Bartholomew, St. Ansanus and a Donor, Maestro dell’Osservanza’s Santa Lucia, Brescianino’s Madonna with Child and Little St. John, Ventura Salimbeni’s Santa Cecilia, Francesco Vanni’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Rutilio Manetti’s St. Jerome in Penitence and Bernardo Mei’s Holy Family with Magdalene.
The Malandri collection was named after the founder, photographer Ferruccio Malandrini, and it was established in 1975. The collection includes historical photographs from Siena territory, taken between 1853 and 1950. There are 135 units in the collection. The units consist of different themes, origins and technical and historical characteristics and in total they include 11,389 photographs.