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Abraham de Pape, Tobit and Anna

Key facts
Full title Tobit and Anna
Artist Abraham de Pape
Artist dates before 1621 - 1666
Date made about 1658
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 40.7 × 56 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1886
Inventory number NG1221
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Tobit and Anna
Abraham de Pape

The Book of Tobit, an apocryphal book of the Old Testament, tells the story of Anna and Tobit, the married couple depicted in this painting. Their faith was tested by God: they were reduced to poverty and Tobit was blinded. With the help of the Archangel Raphael, their son Tobias eventually restored Tobit’s sight.

Anna is shown at a spinning wheel, her source of income, and the empty cupboard is testament to their poverty. In its tranquil domesticity, the scene resembles a genre painting; Abraham de Pape mostly painted genre scenes in a style close to that of his teacher, Gerrit Dou. Rembrandt, de Pape’s fellow Leiden townsman, also painted Tobit and Anna decades earlier (the painting was once thought to be by Dou).

The illusionistic curtain is a common feature in seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. It harks back to the story of the duelling artists Zeuxis and Parrhasius, as told by the Roman author Pliny. Parrhasius asked Zeuxis to pull aside a curtain covering his picture, but the curtain itself turned out to be a painted illusion.

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