As part of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, St. Jerome in the Wilderness, the only painting by Leonardo in Rome, will be on display at a free exhibition hosted at the Braccio di Carlo Magno in St. Peter's Square.
Dating from c. 1482, the painting depicts Saint Jerome during his retreat to the Syrian desert, where he lived the life of a hermit. As explained on the Vatican Museums website, where it is generally housed (Room IX), it is not known who commissioned the painting, nor to where it was destined. It is unfinished, and “one of the most enigmatic works of the great Tuscan painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and philosopher,” the Vatican Museum website writes.
The scope of the exhibition is to “share with the public for three months a work that is a symbol of the painting gallery and has a strong message of faith,” said Vatican Museums Director Barbara Jatta.
The painting has several elements that are typical of Leonardo’s techniques and can be found in other works: the detailed rendering of the muscles in the neck and shoulders is typical of Leonardo's anatomical drawings; landscape features are remindful of the Virgin of the Rocks; the color scheme, with tones of ochre and green, is similar to those seen in the Adoration of the Magi.
A video explaining the story of the painting accompanies the exhibition.
After Rome, St. Jerome in the Wilderness will travel to New York, to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in July, then on to the Louvre in Paris for the major tribute to Leonardo planned for the fall.
The exhibition at Braccio di Carlo Magno runs through June 22.