The unknown sitter in this portrait, wearing the crimson cassock and cap of a cardinal, is depicted as a humanist scholar. Through the open window can be seen the figure of Saint Jerome, the 4th-century biblical scholar, often portrayed in medieval art as a kneeling hermit. He is identified by a broad-brimmed cardinal's hat and the lion that was his legendary companion. During the Renaissance, however, Saint Jerome was frequently shown as a cultured man of learning in his study--a representation this sitter clearly wished his portrait to suggest.
The identities of both artist and sitter have long been debated. The most persuasive evidence indicates that Lorenzo Costa painted a high-ranking prelate, possibly Cardinal Bibbiena, while court painter in Mantua, a sophisticated center of humanist culture.
Acquired in 1970 70.17