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St. Jerome

Accession Number
1974/1.90

Title
St. Jerome

Artist(s)
German

Object Creation Date
circa 1760-1770

Medium & Support
porcelain

Dimensions
8 7/8 in x 4 5/8 in x 4 in (22.5 cm x 11.7 cm x 10.2 cm);8 7/8 in x 4 5/8 in x 4 in (22.5 cm x 11.7 cm x 10.2 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Hubert L. and Doris M. Grigaut for The Paul Leroy Grigaut Memorial Collection

Label copy
March 28, 2009
This gaunt figure of St. Jerome may strike viewers today as too stridently ascetic for rendering in a material as refined as porcelain. With his right knee wedged in a stump, the saint’s torso contracts with an inner tension as he pounds his chest with stones in penitence. At his feet sits the lion that, according to legend, became Jerome’s companion after he had extracted a thorn from its paw.
Since the fifteenth century European elites had avidly collected and displayed porcelain imported from China and Japan. The closely guarded formula for making porcelain, however, eluded Europeans until 1709, when the alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger under the patronage of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony, discovered the process. Augustus quickly established a porcelain factory in Meissen, close to Dresden, in order to sate his appetite for porcelain. Over the succeeding decades a number of other European rulers founded rival porcelain factories, including the factory at Ansbach near Nuremberg where this figure of St. Jerome was produced. Factories made various types of tableware as well as small figurines designed for display in cabinets or as table decoration. Many such figures were charming and even comic, while others, such as this austere saint, were didactic and moralizing.

Subject matter
This ascetic figure represents St. Jerome striking his exposed chest with rocks in an act of penance. According to legend the lion at his feet became Jerome’s companion after he had extracted a thorn from its paw.

Physical Description
This small porcelain sculpture represents a gaunt, sinewy bearded figure, who is naked except for a loincloth. With his right knee wedged in a stump, his torso contracts with an inner tension as he pounds his chest with stones in an act of penitence. At his feet sits a lion.

Primary Object Classification
Sculpture

Primary Object Type
figure

Additional Object Classification(s)
Ceramic

Collection Area
Western

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
asceticism
porcelain (visual works)
rock (inorganic material)

& Author Notes

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