El caso es que hasta que Helen I. Roberts no publicó este trabajo elaborado como tesis en 1958, se creía –según la autora- que el cuadro de Carpaccio representaba a San Jerónimo, pese a las muchas pistas que apuntaban a San Agustín. El cuadro representa, como ya todo el mundo admite, la visión que Agustín tuvo de San Jerónimo cuando este acababa de morir. Según el Catalogus sanctorum sonó una voz desde la luz acusando a Agustín de ser presuntuoso al pretender, antes de morir, entender la gloria eterna.
A partir de ahí resultan comprensibles muchos de los elementos del cuadro: el báculo y la mitra episcopales son de San Agustín, obispo de Hipona. La concha tiene por lo menos dos sentidos: alude al niño que intentaba echar en un agujero en la playa todo el mar usando una concha (era un ángel que quería dar una lección a San Agustín) y también esa concha tenía un uso práctico, el de suavizar la raspadura al corregir un pergamino. Los papeles de música aluden al tratado De musica de San Agustín. En las estanterías hay “quizás” muchas plumas como referencia a la gran producción literaria del santo, y una especie de campanilla que “podría ser un candelero de obispo”.
Por último, los objetos francamente seculares en la habitación, como la estatuilla del caballo y lo que parece ser una Venus, han de ser “los restos de la antigüedad pagana” al igual que la partitura de música profana. Claro que, concluye Helen I. Roberts, no son de extrañar, dado el mensaje de San Jerónimo a Agustín incitándolo a pensar más en el cielo y menos en las artes humanas:
In support of the correspondence between the action of Carpaccio's painting and the event de- scribed in the text, several details characterizing Carpaccio's scholar confirm his reidentification as Augustine, as well as being compatible with the story thought to have been told by him.
The shell, which seems to form a part of a cluster of attributes with the significant miter and crozier (Fig. 5),64 had become associated with Augustine through a legend with a message similar to that of the text discussed here.65 The story has often been noted as illustrated among pictures of Augustine from the period.66 It tells of a supernatural apparition to Augustine, while he was planning his work on the Trinity during a walk by the seaside, of a mysterious child who was trying to empty the sea into a hole, or ditch, with a shell. When Augustine commented that his task was impossible, the child answered that it was as possible as was Augustine's explanation of the mysteries of the Trinity. He likened the hole to a book, the sea to the Trinity, and the shell to the understanding of Augustine. The last of the three analogies ("assimilans foveam codici, mare Trinitati, cochleam intellectui Augustini""') provides a symbolic significance for the shell. The similarity between the child's message and Jerome's as given above is striking.
If the shell, which in its practical use was an instrument for smoothing erasures on parchment, also carries a literary allusion to Augustine's intellect and the hopelessness of his self-imposed tasks, then other objects in the room may have symbolic significance of this sort, despite Carpaccio's well-known predilection for drawing from life. Most suggestive of speculation are the niche and altar, decorated respectively with a cherub and a statue of the Risen Christ. According to "Au- gustine," Jerome continued to speak to him after delivering the address quoted above, answering Augustine's questions on the Trinity, the generation and procession of the Son from the Father, and the heavenly hierarchy."6 Thus the statue and the decoration of the niche, so close to the shell, could signify the subjects with which the intellect of Augustine was attempting to deal.
The presence of music (Fig. 7) is particularly appropriate to a representation of Augustine. He would have been regarded as an authority on music (his De musica had already been published in Venice),69 and one of the legends then current among stories of his life was the account of his composing and singing a Te Deum with St. Ambrose when that saint was baptizing him.70 Au- gustine's Confessions include a chapter on his love of music, and the chapter is referred to in the Golden Legend.7
The two pieces of music on the floor and on the stand72 are discussed by Dr. Edward Lowinsky below." The closed book with an elaborate cover erect on the table near the seated figure may also be a music book: similar ones, open and closed, appear among the angel-musicians of Carpaccio's altarpiece of the Madonna Enthroned in the Cathedral of Capodistria dated 1516."
Other details, while they do not characterize Augustine individually, are suitable to his important position both in his priestly and his scholarly functions, while being compatible with the representation of a bishop.
His elevated degree in his role of functioning priest is emphasized by the presence of the miter and crozier at the altar equipped for the administering of the Eucharist (Fig. 5). Furthermore, the position of the chair and pulpit-like stand on a little dais to the left of the altar is the traditional one of the cathedra. The object on the shelf on the left wall which resembles a bell (Fig. 6) may be a bishop's candle.
Details in the area where the ecclesiastic sits, in the role of scholar apart from his priestly function, are also compatible with Augustine's elevated authority: the dais upon which he is seated, the two seals attached to packets on the dais (seals of vesica shape used by prelates), and the costume worn by the scholar. The cape, a mozzetta, was worn in combination with the white garment, a rochet, by bishops among other prelates."7 The red color of the cassock beneath, now commonly associated with the cardinalate, was then worn as well by lesser officials, including bishops.76 (Au- gustine, as far as I know, was not represented in art of the period as a cardinal bishop.)
The amount of emphasis placed on scholastic activity and the elegant elaboration of the equipment of Renaissance theologians and scholars is such that the room is, needless to say, ap- propriate for Augustine. Above the saint's writing table is a celestial sphere. Hanging in a row over the cupboard door are several astrolabes. Within the cupboard is a table with a lectern. Perhaps the slender, pointed, slightly oval objects vertically arranged on both shelves are pens, referring to Augustine's many writings, since they resemble the one in the saint's hand. The scissors, so prominently placed on the saint's writing table, may have a special significance, symbolic of the interpretation of the Scriptures by the Doctors of the Church." The fragments of legible exposed writing on books in the room are unfortunately too incomplete, though they may not always have been, to be of more than speculative significance."
The presence of surprisingly secular objects in the room, the statuettes of the horse and what appears to be a Venus on the shelf of the left wall, both resembling the remains of pagan antiquity, and the prominent sheet of music on the floor to the right, now established by Dr. Lowinsky as secular music, may seem at first glance inappropriate for Augustine's oratory. Yet when we con- sider the message being delivered by Jerome, that Augustine should concern himself more with deeds that will result in his future joys in Heaven than speculation about the nature of the happiness enjoyed there by the saints (naturally included among his own hopes), then these details might be regarded as emphasizing a contrast between the two saints shown in the same group of pictures. In the previous two pictures Jerome has appeared heroic in aiding a wounded beast and ascetic in dying in a state of self-denial and simplicity of dress. The following picture of Augustine in a handsome study-oratory which contains objects alluding to worldly as well as religious pre- occupations adds a final contribution to Carpaccio's characterization of Jerome through contrast. Since Augustine's susceptibility to the pleasures of eye and ear were well known from his Con- fessions," it seems fitting that Carpaccio should employ them in this painting of Augustine to illustrate the story, then well known, of his friend's posthumous admonitions.
In illustrating this scene, Carpaccio also posed a problem of particular concern during his period: the relative merits of deed and thought, of action and philosophy. Suavely, in this instance, and with a touch of humor, he approached the dilemma faced by his contemporaries.
ST. AUGUSTINE IN "ST. JEROME'S STUDY": CARPACCIO'S PAINTING AND ITS LEGENDARY SOURCE
HELEN I. ROBERTS
(The The Art Bulletin, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Dec., 1959), pp. 283-297
Published by College Art Association)
Así es que pido perdón a San Agustín y a Carpaccio por mis anteriores interpretaciones equivocadas y demasiado profanas. Y agradezco su intervención a San Jerónimo, a Helen I. Roberts y a Manuel González Villa.
Y gracias también sean dadas a Carpaccio por ese prodigio de luz y belleza que me atrevo a reproducir de nuevo para disfrute de todos nosotros.
Carpaccio pinxit 1502
Otras entradas relacionadas:
San Jerónimo (y VII)
San Jerónimo VI
San Agustín de Carpaccio
San Jerónimo V
San Jerónimo IV
San Jerónimo III
San Jerónimo II