The content of this scene can be considered a little unusual for this artist, with the use of such clear iconography which is not found very often elsewhere. As Jerome looks up to the sky there is a cross, skull and Bible beside him, which provide symbols that have familiar meanings within art history. Jerome is shown here to have removed himself from society in order to give himself entirely to his faith. He writes using the quill in his right hand, presumably the translation of the Bible into Latin. This is therefore a particularly symbolic artwork and one that will resonate with followers of the Christian Church. He does wear some clothes, but just what is left of a red cloak which alludes to his former role as a cardinal, prior to locking himself away in order to complete this challenging task.
This piece has changed hands on a number of occasions since first being completed back in 1779. It is now at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, on loan from the Musée de la civilisation. It is also protected from sale outside of Quebec by local rules which attempt to preserve the cultural collection of local institutions. Many other nation states now have similar policies in place. This is also one of only two paintings by David to be found in Canada, a nation which clearly has much in common with France and so would no doubt be interested in featuring more work from this Neo-classical master. David is better represented in the US, though most of his original artworks remain in Europe, with the Louvre the best venue to discover his paintings in person.
French art perhaps peaked during the period of the 17th to 19th centuries and there were many impressive contributions across multiple movements, with Jacques Louis David certainly amongst the best. A related artist who worked within the French Baroque style was Nicolas Poussin. He gifted us some classic artworks such as The Inspiration of the Poet, A Dance to the Music of Time and The Shepherds of Arcadia (Et in Arcadia ego) and also takes his place amongst the legendary names to have starred during this politically turbulent but artistically innovative period in the nation's history. In recent years there has been a greater focus on Poussin's work, including a number of high profile exhibitions which have helped to ensure new generations of art followers discover the best of his career.