Series: Favorite Paintings
Catena Saint Jerome in his Study from the National Gallery
Standing alone before St Jerome.
Wandering through the National Gallery in London, I am always looking for my favorite paintings. One of them is St Jerome in his Study by Catena. Some years ago, I fell in love with this painting. As no other people seemed interested, I could watch St Jerome for a long time without being disturbed. It gave me a wonderful feeling, to stand alone before this painting. I felt totally quiet.
Readers and silence.
There is silence. The bird does not make noise.
The lion is sleeping. St Jerome is reading.
It is this act of reading which is holding my attention. Reading is an interaction between two people, the author and the reader, actually from author to reader. It is a lonely activity. Readers are alone with their thoughts. Before this painting, I forget all the people, walking behind me through the National Gallery rooms.
I am just there with another reader, although he cannot talk with me. That does not matter. Readers like other readers. Readers like silence.
Colors and composition.
The quiet green and brown colors and the geometrical composition with right lines are greatly contributing to the feeling of rest.
The reading St Jerome in his red and blue gown.
The view through the window of the blue grey mountains and the sea.
And especially the sleeping lion.
I love paintings because of the pleasure of lines and colors.
Moreover, they are arousing old and new thoughts and feelings.
Some feelings are reminding of personal life events, sad and happy ones.
New thoughts are sometimes more interesting. They can produce another way of looking, of thinking, about personal life, about humanity, about the world.
Perhaps this painting is representing another meaning than a reading St Jerome. I am sure it has many different meanings. Sometimes that is important, sometimes not.
The painter creates, the art lover re-creates.
I am an art lover. I value art historians and art books highly. Art books show me details, I could overlook. They help me seeing more. However, when I am standing before a painting, it is between the painter and me. It is about what he wants to show and say, and about what I think and feel.
Jerome – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vincenzo Catena | artist | active 1506 – 1531 | The National Gallery, London
Vincenzo Catena | Saint Jerome in his Study | NG694 | The National Gallery, London
Other paintings of St Jerome
Some years ago, I visited Champmol in Dijon, the grounds of the old monastery of Chartreuse de Champmol, today a psychiatric hospital. I made the journey just for visiting the sculptures of Claus Sluter. After some rather heavy traffic, I drove onto the site. At my surprise, there was a small parking for visitors under beautiful trees. Walking across the site, I met only a few friendly patients and nurses. It was a hot day, but thanks to the trees, it was very pleasant.
Of course, I went straight to the Well of Moses, in a backyard with some scattered construction material. I could walk around the sculpture group as many times as I wanted to. Nobody disturbed me. It is always nice to be alone with a work of art. It is as if you are alone with the artist. It is exciting to stand in front of a sculpture and realizing that ages ago an artist has touched it with his hands.
The second sculpture group was in the chapel. After a short walk under beautiful trees, I went into the portal of the chapel. It was there in the portal that the beautiful statue of Maria struck me. I have seen many beautiful medieval sculptures. Mostly, they were more static and serious. This time however, I saw a very lively Maria. She was moving, turning and smiling, with the child on her arm. It was as if I was seeing my grandmother, my mother, and many other women, washing, cleaning and caring for their child. There was something human between the mother and her child. Maria seemed almost real. I loved it. Never before I saw such a lovely statue of Maria, of any woman. It was worth the trip. Go see it when you are in the neighborhood. Claus Sluter has made a beautiful image in favor of women.
When I am listening to music, looking at a painting or a sculpture or reading a book, I know instantaneously that something is happening to me, a kind of flash. Sometimes a memory of an event in the past, sometimes a memory of a friend, but often an indistinct feeling of happiness, of “je ne sais quoi” or even of melancholy. These moments make a deep impression, I never forget. I don’t know if they are influencing my daily life. But I do know they are remaining in my memory and in my thoughts. They can change with time, mood, ageing or personal development. They never fall out of favour.
For instance, when at the age of twelve first reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, I looked at Pierre and Andrei as grown-up men. Young, my greatest admiration was for Pierre with his more deviating way of life. Older, I appreciated more Andrei’s social attitude. Yet each time I reread the novel, I feel involved with both and with Natasha of course.
The same, in some other way, is happening with music like the first time I heard Beethoven’s Eroica on a small recorder or the Violin Concerto by Yehudi Menuhin live.
Or when I am looking at a sculpture by Lehmbruck or a painting by Malevich or a .
Earlier I always tried to understand why some works had such an effect on me. Nowadays, I am just happy with the old familiar memories and the future, not yet known, events. They are like old and new friends. They are part of me.
In this blog I’ll write about my favorite music, art and books.
What I hear, see, read, feel, think and love.