The subject of the picture is taken from Eusebius's De Morte Hieronymi ad Damasum. Saint Jerome is shown in his cell near Bethlehem, supported by his brethren. Above the bed are two juniper branches, palms, a crucifix, and Jerome's cardinal's hat. The picture was painted for the Florentine wool merchant, Francesco del Pugliese, who described it in a will of 1502. Although pictures of Saint Jerome in his study, surrounded by ancient texts, were popular among Humanists, the subject of the present picture, with its devotional character, is shown less frequently and may be related to the fact that Pugliese, like Botticelli's brother, was a supporter of Savonarola. The painting dates from the early 1490s.
The exceptionally fine frame on this picture has a painted lunette by Bartolomeo di Giovanni (active 1480, died 1501), who not only collaborated with Botticelli on at least one occasion but copied this picture. The frame may have been made for one of these copies.
?Jean Dollfus, Paris (in 1908); sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, December 20, 1985, no. 64 [Trinity in present (engaged) frame, but surmounting a Crucifixion], attributed to Alegretto Nuzi, for Fr 280,000 to Wildenstein; [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1985–89]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Italian Renaissance Frames," June 5, 1990–January 6, 1991, no. 11.
Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 99, lists under Alunno di Domenico (Bartolomeo di Giovanni) a "Frame to a Trecento Madonna" as no. 1519 in the collection of Jean Dollfus, Paris, possibly this work.
Keith Christiansen in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1988–1989." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 47 (Fall 1989), p. 36, ill. (color), suggests that the frame may have been carved in the workshop of Giuliano da Majano, and that it may have been made for one of two paintings by Bartolomeo di Giovanni depicting the last communion of Saint Jerome, both deriving from Botticelli's painting in the MMA.
Timothy J. Newbery and Laurence B. Kanter inItalian Renaissance Frames. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1990, p. 43, no. 11, ill. (color), concur with Christiansen's proposed attribution of the frame to the workshop of Giuliano da Majano and refer to similar details found in marble and terracotta reliefs by Giuliano's brother, Benedetto da Majano; attribute the Trinity scene to Bartolomeo di Giovanni and suggest that he may have had a regular working relationship with Giuliano.
Carmen Bambach Cappel. Memo to Keith Christiansen. October 23, 1990, notes the relationship between the composition of the lunette and a drawing attributed to Bartolomeo di Giovanni in Christ Church, Oxford; suggests that the drawing was kept in the workshop as a pattern for decoration of many different types of objects.
The painting in the lunette of the Trinity flanked by angels has been attributed by Everett Fahy to Bartolomeo di Giovanni. It is probable that the frame was 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, cat. no. 136, fig. 158]. The frame encloses Botticelli's "Last Communion of Saint Jerome" (14.40.642).