Studiolo - Stefaan van Biesen



S T U D I O L O [Skin, must learn how to breathe...].






The world of the recluse. Stefaan van Biesen's philosophical path.


Many will have looked at the painting “San Girolamo nello studio” by Antonello da Messina in the London National Gallery with certain amazement and questioning eyes. San Girolamo is better known as Hieronymus. The Saint is mostly represented as a hermit who lives in poor circumstances. Let’s think about the famous painting of Jeroen Bosch in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. We see the recluse who has thrown himself in front of the crucifix, only dressed in his undergarment. Behind him, a serene and most beautiful landscape unfolds, to which the hermit pays no attention.







The painting is recorded in a Venetian collection in 1529 as by Antonello, Van Eyck or Memling. Antonello da Messina may have painted it when in Venice in the 1470s. His style was much influenced by Netherlandish painting seen in the detailed treatment of objects such as the hanging towel and the view through the window. The 4th-century Saint Jerome was one of the four Fathers of the Church, and is often represented in the Renaissance. He was famous for the Vulgate (the translation of the Bible into Latin) and is often depicted in his study. A painting of Saint Jerome, thought to be by Jan van Eyck, is known to have been in Naples in 1456 and Antonello may have seen it. He certainly worked in Naples as well as his native Sicily.







Public library Zwijndrecht Belgium 2006.


Antonella da Messina pictures the recluse in his study, an open construction in which the church father withdraws. His wooden construction is part of a bigger picture, an imaginary, gothic room which could refer to a church as well as to a palazzo. Slender pillars and vistas with a view on the landscape, only meant for the viewer, not for the character who has withdrawn in that space. He has retired voluntarily in a firmly structured studio with only walls. The studio is somewhat elevated above the world, it is like a stage. The learned church father is reading a book and is surrounded by several objects. He observes the world through educational material, not through direct observation. He observes the world in which he has retired. Let’s not forget that the man is a monk and a scholar who is responsible for the Latin standard version of the bible, the Vulgate. His cardinalate was assigned posthumously, therefore the red mantle and cardinal’s hat, attributes with which he is mostly represented.


Daan Rau [Openbaar Kunstbezit 2007].





The philosophical path

Many artists, scientists and philosophers recognize themselves and their own situation in this state of retiring disposition from the world. Stefaan van Biesen shares this feeling. He wants to complete an installation from this fascinating painting. In his preparatory file he writes the following about the scholar: “The trip he makes is a mental voyage, as if he can transfer himself through thoughts to other, still unknown places. The studio is a projection of his thinking.”







©stefaan van biesen-annemie mestdagh 26.05.2020