St Jerome in the Wilderness Pieter Bruegel Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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St Jerome in the Wilderness is one of a number of prints produced in the Belgian region during the 16th century. They were made directly from designs produced by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Looking at the composition in front of us, the layout is actually very similar to another item in this series, namely Rustic Solicitude. They have tall trees in the foreground, places on the right hand side in order to frame all remaining content on the left hand side of it. We then find a steep hill in front of us, with a small set of buildings on top. The face of the hill is filled with sharp stone and a flurry of trees. Behind is an open expanse of land which is flatter but still detailed. It is without shadow and therefore looks much feinter than the elaborate and undulating roch faces. In the far distance we also see the style of sky that continues throughout this series, normally with around the same amount of the overall artwork being afforded to it.

Bruegel would focus on precise detail within these designs because colour would not be used once they reached the engraving stage. There are examples of where prints would then be hand painted afterwards, or at least with heightening added, but that was not done here. The shadows therefore become important in avoiding the piece becoming too flat and without character and they regions would then be real contours within the engraved block once the finished designs have been handed over. Bruegel would then take a back seat and allow specialists to complete the remaining stages of production, which involved creating the etching and then publishing prints directly from it. Today, most of these items are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art features a great selection of items from the Northern Renaissance alongside many of Bruegel's designs in this series of prints. His painting, The Harvesters, for example can be found within this institution too. Looking beyond that, there are also many other artists who have taken the theme of St Jerome in the Wilderness into their own work. These include the likes of Leonardo da Vinci who created his version of Saint Jerome in the Wilderness in circa 1480, many decades before Pieter Bruegel the Elder did the same. He would have learnt much from the great Italian Renaissance artists as well as more local members of the Northern Renaissance from modern-day Netherlands and Belgium.