JF Ptak Science Books Post 1554
In the history of mountains seldom have they raised themselves so magnificently as that seen in Jacopo da Valenza's St. Jerome in the Wilderness. Painted in about 1509, da Valenza (who flourished from 1478-1509) depicts the 4th century Saint--a Doctor of the Catholic Church, proponent of asceticism, scholar, philosopher, historian and translator of the Bible--sitting calmly and reading a book balanced on the top of a rock pile, sitting in a deep state, with a metaphorical depiction of time and biography looming impossibly and invisibly behind him in the form of a mountain.
I believe that the scene that wind their way around the mountains are those from St. Jerome's life, displayed for all but not to him, shown as a chronological memory in simultaneous display.
The imagery of the mountain displays as much history and imagination as required by the viewer. It has a distinct Tower of Babel quality to it, though here the mountain very decidedly has no upper limit, no summit, the mountain disappearing into the north end of the painting, and actually seems to be getting larger and more dense as it ascends.
Jerome is serene, larger matters on his mind than a simple history of one life.
The saint is frequently shown in very stark surroundings, and occasionally appears in more formal and lush biblio-related scenes--as the man did, after all, serve his Pope in very advanced capacities in Rome for a number of years. But this I think is how we picture Jerome in a generalized way--except for the extraordinary mountain.