Tobit and Anna

Tobit and Anna were the parents of Tobias who saved his father's sight with the help of the Archangel Raphael. Tobit had been reduced to poverty by God as a test: Anna supported them with her spinning wheel. Book of Tobit (2: 11 and 4: 21). If the identification of the subject as Tobit and Anna is correct, the spinning-wheel is presumably a reference to Anna working for money and the bare cupboard an allusion to their poverty. Because of the interior setting the painting was for a long time been interpreted as being a genre scene with an old couple. However, the subject was identified by comparison with a similar painting by Rembrandt ('Anna and the Blind Tobit'), also in the National Gallery's Collection.

In 17th-century Holland, paintings were sometimes protected by curtains, and illusionistic representations of them, as in the curtain set in front of the scene on the right, are not uncommon.

Key facts

Artist dates
before 1621 - 1666
Full title
Tobit and Anna
Date made
about 1658
Medium and support
Oil on oak
40.7 x 56 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1886
Inventory number
Location in Gallery