Madonna and Child and St. Jerome


Benevenuto di Piero Tisi ( Italian, 1481 - 1559 )

About 1530s
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General Description

Born in Ferrara, a town thirty miles north of Bologna, Garofalo is associated with a group of Renaissance artists now known as the Ferrarese School. The strongest influence on his painting was the High Renaissance art of Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael, but he also collaborated on several projects with fellow Ferrarese painters, Dosso and Battista Dossi. Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), the author of the foundational text on art from this period, was a personal acquaintance of Garofalo and the main source for the artist's biography. A good draftsman and rich colorist who used both oil and tempera, Garofalo is noted particularly for his landscape backgrounds. His frescoes and oil paintings have decorated many churches and palaces in Ferrara.

Madonna and Child and St. Jerome exemplifies a traditional Renaissance religious group, comparable to scenes of the Holy Family by Raphael. The attention to volume and proportions in the main figures, the dramatic landscape, combined with the idealized image of the Virgin and the classical setting, reflect the aesthetics of Christian humanism. High Renaissance artists visualized religious scenes set within illusionistic spaces containing three-dimensional, realistic figures. Two landscapes help focus attention on the central trio. The arrangement and drapery of Mary and St. Jerome create a subtle pyramid around the center of the composition where the infant Jesus sits. St. Jerome is shown with a Bible, which he devoted his life to translating from Hebrew to Latin. His left hand rests on a skull just over the face of a lion—a reference to a medieval tale in which Jerome draws a thorn from a lion's paw.

Adapted from

  • Anne Bromberg, DMA unpublished material, 1987.

  • Gail Davitt, DMA unpublished material, 1986-87.

  • DMA Label copy, 2015.

Fun Facts

  • According to Giorgio Vasari, Garofalo was blind for several years before his death in 1559. Other research suggests that his vision had been impaired most of his life after losing sight in one eye as a young man.

  • Garofalo, also known as Benevenuto di Piero Tisi, signed his works with variations of his name including Benvegnu, Benvenuto, and Benvenutus. He also is known to have substituted a small twig with a carnation blossom as a monogram.

  • Seven of the leading experts in Renaissance art were consulted about the attribution of this work when it was added to the collection in 1939. Each was sent a black and white photograph of the painting and asked to provide their opinion as to its creator and date. The authenticity of Garofalo's Madonna and Child and St. Jerome was supported by Dr. Frederick Francis Mason Perkins, Prof. Roberto Longhi, Prof. Adolfo Venturi, Prof. William Suida, Prof. Giuseppe Fiocco, Dr. Raimond van Marle, and Bernard Berenson.

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