Surprise in store at the Walker

The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is one of my favourite places to visit.  Countless gems in there and I was under the impression that I had explored it all.  Yesterday, I found I was wrong – Rooms 1 and 2 were unknown to me, so with a skip in my step, off I went for a little wander and I was amazed with what I found.

This post will just be about one item – this little carved stone relief of St Jerome reading in a cave by the fifteenth century, Dalmatian sculptor, Andrea Alessi.

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I just fell in love with this – so if the gallery ever want to get rid, I want to be first in line – haha!!!

The story of St Jerome is that he took a thorn from the paw of a lion, as seen in this 15th century Italian painting.  I think the lion is pretty annoyed about the inconvenience as opposed to being in pain.

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Saint Jerome Extracting a Thorn from a Lion’s Paw
Artist/Maker:
Master of the Murano Gradual (Italian, active about 1430 – 1460)
J. Paul Getty Museum

The stone relief in the Walker is a little more serious.  The pathos of the lion is heartbreaking:

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Painting by Niccolò Antonio Colantonio, showing Jerome’s removal of a thorn from a lion’s paw. circa 1440-1470

The story of St Jerome is apocryphal and different elements are often brought together, depending on the artist.  Some show Jerome in the monastery as shown above, with the lion limping in for help, but, as another Jerome spent time as a hermit, the cave is also used as a backdrop to the drama. The two stories seems to be interchangeable when it comes to art.

Roger Van Der Weyden also used the cave as a setting:

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Saint Jerome in the desert – XVth cent – Detroit Institute of Art

Jerome’s cardinal’s hat is on the floor, but in the Alessi, he is treading on it, with some force. Seemingly, Jerome rejects the trappings of his faith.  This again is a conceit, as cardinals did not exist at this time.

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The carving of the Allesi is perfect and could almost be the precursor of the sculptures of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Jacob Epstein, with the sharp, geometric shapes of the rocky outcropping of the cave:

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There will be a few more of these insights as I was thrilled with some of the works I found here.