Back to browse highlights

The Last Communion of Saint Jerome

Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi) (Italian, Florence 1444/45–1510 Florence)

early 1490s
Tempera and gold on wood
13 1/2 x 10 in. (34.3 x 25.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    The great fourth-century scholar and translator of the Bible into Latin is shown in his cell near Bethlehem, supported by his brethren, receiving last communion. Famous in its day, the picture was painted in the early 1490s for the Florentine wool merchant Francesco del Pugliese. A supporter of the radical preacher Savonarola, Pugliese may have been attracted to the subject for its deeply devotional content.

    The frame, contemporary but not original to the picture, was carved in the workshop of Giuliano da Maiano; the lunette is by Bartolomeo di Giovanni, who sometimes collaborated with Botticelli.

  • Catalogue Entry

    The painting was identified by Horne (1915) with a picture described in the 1502 inventory of Francesco del Pugliese as "another work in which is shown the death of Saint Jerome by the hand of Sandro [Botticelli]" (unaltro quadro dipintouj eltransito di sa[n] girolamo dimano didecto sandro). Its fame may be gauged by the citations in two early guidebooks to Florence. The Anonimo Magliabecchiano (Gaddiano 1542–56) lists it among Botticelli’s "small, extremely beautiful works." The picture is, indeed, among the most exquisite of the artist’s small devotional paintings. It has been dated as early as ca. 1490 but is more frequently placed between 1495 and 1500 (see, most recently, Cecchi 2005 and Zöllner 2005). Horne (1915) gives the most thorough account of the iconography and detailed information on Pugliese, a wealthy wool merchant and a notable patron of the arts. (He may have commissioned Piero di Cosimo’s paintings of primitive man in the MMA: 75.7.1–2.) Pugliese was a staunch supporter of Savonarola and an opponent of the Medici (he was in the convent of San Marco the night Savonarola was arrested and in 1513 was exiled for having referred to Lorenzo de’ Medici as "il magnifico merda"). The subject of the picture has been related to Pugliese’s deep religious convictions (the most popular image of Saint Jerome in the fifteenth century shows him either as a scholar in his study or as an ascetic in the wilderness).

    The subject is based on a letter addressed to Pope Damasus (366–384) describing Jerome’s death in 420 A.D. In the fifteenth century the letter was ascribed to Eusebius of Caesarea, but it dates, instead, from the twelfth century (the Pseudo-Eusebius of Cremona). Jerome is shown in his hermit’s cell near Bethlehem, kneeling in front of a bed covered with a coarse coverlet. On the back wall of the wattle cell hang palm branches, a crucifix, and a cardinal’s hat (although a doctor of the church, Jerome was not, in fact, a cardinal but was often shown as one). The arrangement is suggestive of a church altar. The saint receives communion from fellow monks, the two youngest of whom serve as acolytes holding candles. He is supported by another monk. All are tonsured. "And as soon as the priest who held the eucharist came near to him, the glorious man, with our aid, raised himself on his knees, and lifted his head, and with many tears and sighs, beating his breast many times, he said: 'Thou art my God and my Lord, who suffered Death and the Passion for me, and none other!’" [. . . And when the saint had made an end of these words, he] "received the most holy body of Christ, and cast himself again upon the ground, with his hands crossed upon his breast, singing the canticle of Simeon, the prophet, ‘Nunc dimittis servum tuum’" (Horne 1908).

    Since 1989 the picture has been displayed in an exceptionally fine Florentine frame of the period almost certainly carved in the workshop of Giuliano da Majano (it should be compared to the frame of a terracotta relief in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; see John Pope-Hennessy, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1964, vol. 1, pp. 161–62, no. 136, fig. 158). The painting in the lunette of the frame shows the Trinity flanked by angels and has been attributed by Everett Fahy to Bartolomeo di Giovanni. Both Giuliano da Majano and Bartolomeo di Giovanni are known to have worked with Botticelli; the latter made a copy of this picture (Galleria Pallavicini, Rome). Another fine copy, evidently from Botticelli’s workshop, was formerly in the Balbi collection, Genoa, and is now in a private collection in New York. A contemporary drawing after this composition is in the Robert Lehman Collection (MMA 1975.1.280).


  • Provenance

    Francesco di Filippo del Pugliese, Florence (by 1502–d. 1519); Niccolò di Piero del Pugliese, Florence (1519–before 1553); marchese Gino Capponi, Palazzo Capponi, Florence (by 1841–d. 1876; as by Castagno); his daughter, marchesa Farinola, Palazzo Capponi, Florence (1876–1912); [Duveen, New York, 1912]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1912–d. 1913)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 88.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 185.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.

  • References

    Francesco di Filippo del Pugliese. Will of Francesco del Pugliese. February 28, 1502 [Archivio di Stato, Florence, Rogiti di Ser Lorenzo di Zanobi Violi, Protocollo dal 14 Giugno, 1500, al 20 Maryo, 1503–4. Segnato, V. 356; published in Ref. Horne 1915, Burlington Magazine], lists it as by Botticelli.

    Antonio Billi. Il libro. [ca. 1516–30], unpaginated [two copies in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze: MS. Magl. XIII, 89 and MS. Magl. XXV, 636; published in Carl Frey, ed., "Il libro di Antonio Billi," Berlin, 1892, p. 29], mentions a picture of Saint Jerome among "quadri di cose pichole" by Botticelli.

    Anonimo Gaddiano. Manuscript. [ca. 1542–56], fol. 85 recto [Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, MS. Magl. XVII, 17; published in Carl Frey, ed., "Il codice Magliabechiano," Berlin, 1892, p. 105], mentions it.

    Federigo Fantozzi. Nuova guida ovvero descrizione storico, artistico, critica della città e contorni di Firenze. Florence, 1842, p. 399, mentions it as a work by Castagno.

    Otto Mündler. Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 2 (1867), p. 279, recognizes it as probably the original of a copy in the Balbi collection, Genoa, but ascribes it to Filippino Lippi.

    Jacob Burckhardt. "Malerei." Der Cicerone: Eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens. 3, 3rd ed. Leipzig, 1874, p. 878, calls it probably the original of the copy in the Balbi collection, there ascribed to Filippino Lippi.

    Giovanni Morelli. Letter to Niccolò Antinori. July 24, 1879 [published in G. Agosti, "Giovanni Morelli corrispondente di Niccolò Antinori," in Studi e ricerche di collezionismo e museografia Firenze 1820–1920, Pisa, 1985, pp. 72–73], lists it as by Botticelli among works that Giulia Ridolfi is interested in acquiring, giving the price as 10,000 lire.

    Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. "Die Galerien Borghese und Doria Panfili in Rom." Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. 1, Leipzig, 1890, p. 146 n. 1, calls it the original of the Balbi copy and ascribes it to Botticelli.

    Giovanni Morelli. Letter. 1891 [published in "Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter," 1960, p. 580], attributes it to Botticelli.

    Hermann Ulmann. Sandro Botticelli. Munich, [1893?], p. 72, attributes it to Botticelli and dates it to the time of the Saint Augustine in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (1485–95).

    Count Plunkett. Sandro Botticelli. London, 1900, pp. 59–60, 116, calls it a work from the school of Botticelli.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Drawings of the Florentine Painters. London, 1903, vol. 1, p. 62, attributes it to Botticelli.

    A. Streeter. Botticelli. London, 1903, p. 157, lists it as a work of Botticelli.

    Julia Cartwright. The Life and Art of Sandro Botticelli. London, 1904, pp. 136–37, 190, lists it as a work of Botticelli and notes that critics have identified it with the painting mentioned by Antonio Billi [see Ref. 1516–30] and Anonimo Gaddiano [see Ref. 1542–56].

    Roger Fry. Letter to Helen Fry. January 11, 1905 [published in Ref. Sutton 1972, vol. 1, letter no. 149, p. 230], describes a meeting with J. P. Morgan and states "he wants to buy Farinola's Botticelli".

    Charles Diehl. Botticelli. Paris, [1906], p. 165, lists it as a work by Botticelli.

    Herbert P. Horne. Alessandro Filipepi commonly called Sandro Botticelli, Painter of Florence. London, 1908, pp. 174–77, ill., attributes it to Botticelli and refers to "an apocryphal letter of the Blessed Eusebius," first printed in Florence in 1490, as the source of the subject.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 117, attributes it to Botticelli.

    Carlo Gamba in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 4, Leipzig, 1910, p. 419, lists it as a late work by Botticelli.

    Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. "Florentine Masters of the Fifteenth Century." A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. 4, London, 1911, p. 270 n. 4, p. 290, call it a replica of the Balbi version, attributed to Filippino Lippi; Douglas attributes it to Botticelli and calls it the original of the copies in the Balbi collection, Genoa, and Abdy collection, Paris (later Benson collection, London).

    Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. 7, part 1, Milan, 1911, p. 642 n. 1, assigns it to Botticelli's latest period.

    Bernard Berenson. Letter to Duveen. March 28, 1912, attributes it to Botticelli.

    M[aurice]. W. B[rockwell]. "Famous Botticelli for America: What the Nation Lost." Morning Post (December 28, 1912) [reprinted in Ref. Horne 1986], reports that it was offered for sale to the National Gallery, London, but rejected [see Ref. Horne 1986].

    Catalogue of Italian Pictures at 16, South Street, Park Lane, London and Buckhurst in Sussex collected by Robert and Evelyn Benson. London, 1914, pp. 47–48, no. 25, ill.

    Herbert P. Horne. "The Last Communion of Saint Jerome by Sandro Botticelli." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (April 1915), pp. 72–75, ill. (detail), details the history of the Pugliese family in the fifteenth century.

    Herbert P. Horne. "The Last Communion of Saint Jerome by Sandro Botticelli." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (May 1915), pp. 101–5, ill. (detail), discusses the life of Francesco del Pugliese.

    Herbert P. Horne. "The Last Communion of Saint Jerome by Sandro Botticelli." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (March 1915), pp. 52, 54–56, ill. p. 39 (cover), gives an extensive account of the Pugliese family, identifying the patron for whom Botticelli painted this picture as Francesco del Pugliese.

    Herbert P. Horne. "Botticelli's "Last Communion of S. Jerome"." Burlington Magazine 28 (November 1915), pp. 45–46, ill. p. 44, publishes Pugliese's will of 1502 that bequeaths the picture to the church of Sant' Andrea da Sommaia; notes that in 1519 this will was replaced by another that makes no mention of the work.

    Wilhelm von Bode. Sandro Botticelli. Berlin, 1921, pp. 157–58, ill. p. 156, attributes it to Botticelli and considers it the original of the Balbi and ex-Abdy copies.

    François Monod. "La galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (September–October 1923), pp. 183–84, ill. p. 185, attributes it to Botticelli and dates it between 1490 and 1502.

    Yukio Yashiro. Sandro Botticelli. London, 1925, vol. 1, pp. 186, 210–11, 230, 243; vol. 3, pl. CCXXXIX, calls it a very late work by Botticelli, dating it 1498.

    Wilhelm von Bode. Botticelli: des Meisters Werke. Berlin, 1926, ill. p. 73, attributes it to Botticelli and dates it about 1490.

    Adolfo Venturi. Botticelli. Paris, 1926, pp. 55, 98, pl. CXXVII, dates it to about the time of the portrait of Lorenzo Lorenzano in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Johnson Collection).

    Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 53–55, no. 26, ill.

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century: The Third Generation." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 12, The Hague, 1931, p. 160, fig. 98, ascribes it to Botticelli and dates it slightly later than the Uffizi Saint Augustine.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 104.

    Lionello Venturi. "Fifteenth Century Renaissance." Italian Paintings in America. 2, New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 254, ascribes it to Botticelli and dates it about 1500.

    Richard Offner. Lecture. March 9, 1935, attributes it to Botticelli.

    Alfred Scharf. Filippino Lippi. Vienna, 1935, p. 117, under no. 142, calls it a replica of the Balbi painting, which he lists as a work by Filippino Lippi.

    Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 327, pl. 52 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 311, pl. 52], attributes it to Botticelli and dates it about 1490.

    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 90.

    Carlo Gamba. Botticelli. Milan, [1936], p. 169, fig. 148 [French ed., (1937), pp. 177–78, fig. 148], dates it in the first half of the 1490s and hesitantly accepts it as the one mentioned in Pugliese's will [see Ref. 1502]; mentions the picture of Saint Jerome referred to by the Anonimo Gaddiano [see Ref. 1542–56], notes that another such work by an anonymous artist was in the collection of Lorenzo de' Medici, and states that several copies of the composition exist.

    Lionello Venturi. Botticelli. New York, 1937, p. 22, ill., dates it about 1490.

    Alan Burroughs. Art Criticism from a Laboratory. Boston, 1938, p. 81.

    Jacques Mesnil. Botticelli. Paris, 1938, pp. 158–59, pl. LXXXVII, accepts it as the one mentioned in Pugliese's will.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 46–47, ill.

    Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 104, ill., dates it about 1490-1500.

    Sergio Bettini. Botticelli. Bergamo, 1942, pp. 40, 45, pl. 142 A, attributes it to Botticelli and tentatively dates it about 1503.

    George Kaftal. Iconography of the Saints in Tuscan Painting. Florence, 1952, col. 529, fig. 607, attributes it to Botticelli.

    Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 225, no. 88, colorpl. 88.

    Giulio Carlo Argan. Botticelli. New York, 1957, p. 124, ill. p. 118 (color), attributes it to Botticelli, dating it about 1490.

    Roberto Salvini. Tutta la pittura del Botticelli. Milan, 1958, vol. 2, p. 53, pl. 69, attributes it to Botticelli, dating it shortly after 1490.

    Federico Zeri. La Galleria Pallavicini in Roma, catalogo dei dipinti. Florence, 1959, pp. 33–34, under no. 18, publishes a copy by Bartolomeo di Giovanni, identifying the MMA picture as the one painted by Botticelli for Francesco del Pugliese.

    Bernard Berenson. I disegni dei pittori fiorentini. Milan, 1961, vol. 2, p. 111, under no. 580 A, vol. 3, fig. 200, considers a Lehman drawing a contemporary copy after our picture.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 37; vol. 2, pl. 1087.

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 159–63, ill., list four roughly contemporary copies of the composition and a drawing after it in the Robert Lehman Collection, indicating that the work, though made for a private patron, was well known.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 34, 408, 606.

    Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 230 n. 2 to letter 149 (January 11, 1905).

    Bernard Berenson. Looking at Pictures with Bernard Berenson. New York, 1974, pp. 186–87, ill., Kiel states that it is mentioned in Pugliese's "final testament of 1519" [but see Ref. Horne 1915, Burlington Magazine], and dates it not earlier than 1490, when Buonacorsi's "Life of Saint Jerome" was published.

    Roberta Jeanne Marie Olson. "Studies in the Later Works of Sandro Botticelli." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1975, vol. 1, pp. 60–61, 79 n. 22, p. 80 n. 29, pp. 322, 331–32, 372 n. 113, p. 375 n. 137, pp. 399–402, 430–31, 450–51 nn. 22, 23; vol. 2, fig. 34, dates it to about 1491–92, suggesting that the color scheme looks back to Fra Angelico and that the painting may show the influence of contemporary Florentine woodcuts; supplies a list of copies and variations.

    Edward Fowles. Memories of Duveen Brothers. London, 1976, pp. 66, 78.

    Federico Zeri. Italian Paintings in the Walters Art Gallery. Baltimore, 1976, vol. 1, p. 102, under no. 65, mentions it as the source for the Bartolomeo di Giovanni predella panel in the Walters Art Museum (37.428 A), and dates it 1490–95.

    L. D. Ettlinger and Helen S. Ettlinger. Botticelli. New York, 1977, pp. 89–90, fig. 58.

    Martin Kemp. "Botticelli's Glasgow 'Annunciation': Patterns of Instability." Burlington Magazine 119 (March 1977), p. 183, lists it among late works.

    Alison Luchs Johns Hopkins University. Cestello, a Cistercian Church of the Florentine Renaissance. New York, 1977, p. 67.

    Ronald Lightbown. Sandro Botticelli. Berkeley, 1978, vol. 1, pp. 120–22, pl. 45; vol. 2, pp. 86–87, no. B78, considers it identical with the picture of Saint Jerome owned by Francesco del Pugliese in 1503, notes that its literary source was an epistle of Eusebius, and dates it about 1494–95.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 237, fig. 422.

    Keith Christiansen. "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (Fall 1983), pp. 12–14, fig. 8 (color, overall and detail), dates it probably 1495.

    Caterina Caneva in Herbert P. Horne. Alessandro Filipepi commonly called Sandro Botticelli, Painter of Florence. reprint of 1908 ed. Florence, 1986, vol. 1, pp. 402–4, reprints Ref. Brockwell 1912 with Horne's annotations.

    Colin Simpson. Artful Partners: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen. New York, 1986, pp. 135–37, 293 [British ed., "The Partnership: The Secret Association of Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen," London, 1987].

    Milton Esterow. "Masterpiece Theater." Art News 89 (Summer 1990), pp. 135–36, ill.

    Anna Forlani Tempesti. "Italian Fifteenth- to Seventeenth-Century Drawings." The Robert Lehman Collection. 5, New York, 1991, pp. 230–32, fig. 78.1, dates it to "the Savonarolan phase of the artist's later years," between 1491 and 1503, and calls the Lehman drawing (MMA 1975.1.280) a contemporary copy.

    Richard Stapleford. "Vasari and Botticelli." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 39 (1995), pp. 399, 401, 402–3 n. 14, p. 408, suggest that Vasari omitted it from his biography of Botticelli because he had not seen it.

    Alessandro Cecchi in L'officina della maniera: Varietà e fierezza nell'arte fiorentina del Cinquecento fra le due repubbliche 1494–1530. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Venice, 1996, p. 8.

    Maria Grazia Ciardi Dupré Dal Poggetto. "I dipinti di palazzo Medici nell'inventario di Simone di Stagio delle Pozze: problemi di committenza e di arredo." La Toscana al tempo di Lorenzo Il Magnifico: politica, economia, cultura, arte, convegno di studi promosso dalle Università di Firenze, Pisa e Siena. Pisa, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 138–39, pl. 85, identifies it with a picture listed in the 1492 Medici inventory as "San Girolamo quando si comunica," rather than with the one mentioned in Pugliese's will, though acknowledges that Botticelli could have made at least two versions of the subject.

    Old Master Pictures. Christie's, London. April 25, 2001, p. 138, under no. 106, cites Everett Fahy for observing that it is based on the same cartoon as the version formerly in the Benson and Abdy collections.

    David G. Wilkins. "Opening the Doors to Devotion: Trecento Triptychs and Suggestions Concerning Images and Domestic Practice in Florence." Italian Panel Painting of the Duecento and Trecento. Washington, 2002, pp. 383, 392 n. 73.

    Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, pp. 114, 416.

    Alessandro Cecchi. Botticelli. Milan, 2005, pp. 318, 329, 363 n. 81, ill. p. 330 (color), dates it probably 1496–97 and believes it was likely commissioned by Francesco di Filippo Pugliese.

    Frank Zöllner. Sandro Botticelli. Munich, 2005, pp. 172, 175, 262–63, no. 80, ill. (color), dates it about 1495–1500 based on similarities in the handling of the drapery to that in the Transfiguration triptych (Galleria Pallavicini, Rome) of about 1500.

    Davide Gasparotto in Il tondo di Botticelli a Piacenza. Milan, 2006, pp. 15–16, fig. 1 (color).

    Dennis Geronimus. Piero di Cosimo: Visions Beautiful and Strange. New Haven, 2006, p. 316 n. 13.

    Hans Körner. Botticelli. Cologne, 2006, pp. 368, 402 nn. 899–900, fig. 297, ill. p. 192 (color).

    Andrea Bayer in Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 303.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History