Jan and Lucas van Doetecum after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, ca. 15251569)
Etching and engraving; only state; 12 5/8 x 16 5/8 in. (32.1 x 42.2 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926 (26.72.13)
The figure of Saint Jerome, the monk and church scholar who sought spiritual refuge in the wilderness, forms but a minute part of this composition. Bent over a book in the right foreground with his lion, the saint pays no attention to the magnificent landscape behind him, divided roughly evenly along a diagonal between a rocky mountainside crowned by a fortress and the calm river valley below. Inscribed "Hieronymus in Deserto" (Saint Jerome in the Wilderness), the image was printed after a design by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It is one of a series of twelve prints known as the Large Landscapes, all of which reflect the deep impression the dramatic mountain vistas made on Bruegel as he traveled through the Alps on his return from Italy around 1554. Carried out primarily in etched lines that have the appearance of engraved ones, the unsigned Large Landscapes were executed by the brothers Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum and published by Hieronymus Cock through his Antwerp shop, At the Four Winds. The prints, which were among the most widely circulated and celebrated of Bruegel's images, allowed a large audience to become acquainted with his strikingly naturalistic and broad-eyed conception of landscape. This is one of the three prints in the series with a biblical subject, though it is unclear whether it was Bruegel's original intention to depict a religious theme. The saint seems almost an afterthought, probably added by the publisher together with the title.