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Leonardo da Vinci’s “Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness” (begun c.1483) is a picture at war with itself. Famously unfinished, it has prompted centuries of speculation about why it never progressed beyond the umber underpainting, with guesses ranging from the loss of a patron to the artist’s insatiable impulse to rethink, revise, and reassess. But what if Leonardo stopped because there was no place else to go?

Brought to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Vatican Museums by the indispensable curator Carmen C. Bambach to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death, the painting has been awarded a rare solo-object exhibition, spotlit in the darkness of a chapel-like setting, with benches on either side.

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