Leonardo's St. Jerome on special display in Vatican

For 500th anniversary of artist's death

(ANSA) - Rome, March 22 - The Vatican Museums on Friday is opening a special exhibition featuring Leonardo da Vinci's painting "St. Jerome in the Wilderness" (ca. 1486-1490), the only work by Leonardo in the Vatican Museums and in Rome in general.
    The show is free of charge, hosted at the Braccio di Carlo Magno in St. Peter's Square, and runs through June 22.
    Vatican Museums Director Barbara Jatta said the show came from the desire to "share with the public for three months a work that is a symbol of the painting gallery and has a strong message of faith".
    She said despite the fact that little is known about the painting and its commission, "there has never been any doubt about the signature and critics are all in agreement".
    The unfinished work, an oil painting on walnut on two levels of sketching, shows extraordinary technique that leads directly back to Leonardo.
    For this masterpiece Leonardo used brushes as well as finger painting, choosing tones of ochre and green similar to those in his work "Adoration of the Magi".
    The canvas resonates with the expressive strength in which Leonardo depicts St. Jerome, not as a father of the church and cultured academic, but rather as a hermit infused with faith who is personally experiencing the Passion of Christ.
    It contains an exceptional anatomical ability as well as landscape characteristics reminiscent of Leonardo's "Virgin of the Rocks".
    The painting is displayed in the centre of a wall in a temperature-controlled display case that is nearly undetectable to the naked eye.
    The hermetically sealed metallic structure was built on the original 1931 gilded frame, and has a sensor that continually monitors temperature and humidity to perfectly preserve the work.
    The show is accompanied by a video telling the story of the painting and its history.
    After Rome, the priceless masterpiece will travel across the Atlantic to New York, where in July it will feature in a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
    Then, prior to returning to Rome, it will travel to the Louvre in Paris for the city's grand tribute to Leonardo.