Some art critics believe it be dated later than this at 1460. Saint Jerome, the subject of the painting, was a Father of the Church from 347-420, and spent 3 years in the desert of Chalcis, which is depicted in the painting. He was a popular subject of painters throughout the Renaissance period, inspiring those in the art world and religious. The panel is 51cm x 38cm and, though still in tact, it was repainted in the sixteenth century in an attempt to try and modernise the image. However, in 1968 this was removed so that the original oil image could be seen underneath.
This could be the reason that the colours are very pale, rather than the artists original intent. However, it may be Piero della Francesca trying to experiment with the colours available at the time and the style he wanted to use. This seems to be a common theme for the artist in his later work. Piero della Francesca also painted a Saint Jerome in a later painting St. Jerome and a Donor. They both follow the styles of the early Renaissance period in which saint and religious representation are important. Piero della Francesca also made use of geometrical patterns throughout his artwork, and carries this through the St Jerome in Penitence, especially in the background of the image. This was due to his background in mathematics, effecting the perspective of his subjects and landscapes. Venetian artists were also respected for their background landscapes, such as Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto and Mantegna.
It is not known who originally commissioned the painting but Francesca had some of the most powerful patrons in Italy at the time including the Duke of Urbino, Sigismund Malatesta in Rimini, and Pope Nicholas V in Rome. St Jerome in Penitence remained with Piero della Francesca at his home in Borgo San Sepolcro, Italy. It now resides in Staatliche Museen, Berlin.