ITALIAN masters         




(1616 Florence 1687)

Saint Jerome in Prayer


dated lower center: 1655

oil on panel; 17 x 21 ¼ inches (43 x 54 cm.)


Probably in the collection of the Marchesi Alessandro Capponi, Florence, from at least 1767 until at least 1842, when it hung in the picture gallery; Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, Augusta, Georgia; their sale, New York, Sotheby's, 14 January 1994, lot 35; there purchased by Jean Luc Baroni, for Colnaghi, London; there purchased by Luigi Koelliker; sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 29 January 2009, lot 27.


Maastricht, Colnaghi, 11 – 19 March 1995;
New York and London, Colnaghi, Master Paintings, 7 – 30 May, 10 Jun. – 11 Jul. 1998, no. 13.

Massachusetts, Davis Museum at Wellesley College, The Medici's Painter: Carlo Dolci and 17th century Florence, Feb. 8 - Jul. 9, 2017, p. 60, Fig. 6

North Carolina, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, The Medici's Painter: Carlo Dolci and 17th century Florence, Aug. 24, 2017- Jan. 14, 2018, p. 60, Fig. 6

Literature and References:

F. Fantozzi, Nuova guida, ovvero descrizione storico-artistico-critica della città e contorni di Firenze, Florence 1842, p. 398;
F. Borroni Salvadori, 'Le esposizioni d'arte a Firenze dal 1764 al 1767', in Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, vol. XVIII, no. 1, 1974, pp. 80-1;
Advertisement in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXVII, no. 1103, February 1995, p. VIII, reproduced in color;
F. Baldassari, Carlo Dolci, Turin 1995, pp. 128-129, no. 101, reproduced in color pl. XXVIII and fig. 101;
M. Gregori, M. Voena (eds.), Pittura Fiorentina Secolo XVII, (Koelliker collection catalogue), 2003, pp. 128-9, reproduced fig. 101;

S. Bellesi, Catologo dei Dittori Fiorentini del '600 e '700: Biografie e Opere, Florence 2009, vol. 1, p. 135;

F. Baldassari, Carlo Dolci: Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Florence, 2015, p. 222, no. 118;

W. Franits, “A Very Famous Dutch Painter” Schalcken in England, 1692-1696” in exhib. cat., Schalcken. Gemalte Verführung, Wallraf das Museum, Cologne, 2015, page 43, fig. 21;

W. Franits, "Schalcken in London: Self-Portraiture as Self-Promotion," Sonderdruck aus dem Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, Band LXXVII, 2016, p. 22-23, fig. 2.



Carlo Dolci entered the studio of Jacopo Vignali in Florence around 1625.  According to his contemporary biographer Filippo Baldinucci, the young pupil’s work was so impressive that he was promptly introduced to the Grand Duke of Tuscany.  Dolci’s precocity for portraiture established his immediate popularity among the aristocratic collectors of Florence.  He enjoyed an international reputation throughout the following decades, revered for his meticulous technique and intense religiosity.


In the 1650s, Dolci began to focus increasingly on religious works that served a didactic purpose.  Saint Jerome in prayer, dated 1655, reveals the fervid religious sentiment that became his guiding force during this decade and continued to prevail throughout his career.  It is clear that Dolci regarded his works as votive offerings, evidenced by his frequent inclusion of prayer inscriptions and biblical verses.  Baldinucci records that Dolci “firmly intended to paint only works which would inspire the fruits of Christian piety in those who saw them.”[1]    


The life of Saint Jerome would certainly be an appropriate example of the pious message that Dolci wished to convey.  The patron saint of knowledge, Saint Jerome was a fourth century scholar who completed the monumental task of translating the bible into Latin from Greek and Hebrew.  He was commonly depicted with writing materials and a lion (a reference to a medieval legend in which he removed a thorn from a lion's paw).  Dolci included both of these symbols in the present work, in addition to portraying Saint Jerome as a recluse in the wilderness—likely alluding to the time he spent secluded in the desert when he learned Hebrew.


According to Francesca Baldassari, the present work represents the finest surviving depiction of Saint Jerome by the artist.[2]  Baldassari records that it was commissioned by the prominent Capponi family in Florence.  It was first documented in their collection in 1767, when it was exhibited for Saint Luke’s Day.[3]  Presumably, it was still with the family by 1842, as the writings of Federigo Fantozzi refer to a painting of “Saint Jerome in Prayer, a fine work in Dolci’s most finished style” hanging in their “quadreria.”[4]


[1] Filippo Baldinucci, Notzie (1681-1728); ed. F. Ranalli (1845-7), v, pp. 335-64.

[2] Baldassari includes two other versions of the subject in her monograph (Baldassari, no. and fig. 21, p. 52 and no. and fig. 72, p. 101-3).

[3] Fabia Borroni Salvadori, Le esposizioni d’arte a Firenze dal 1674 al 1767, in ‘Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz’, 1974, 18, pp. 80-1.

[4] Federigo Fantozzi, Nuova guida, ovvero descrizione storico-artistico-critica della città e contorni di Firenze, Florence 1842, p. 398.