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After Adam Elsheimer, 'Tobias and the Archangel Raphael', mid-17th century

Key facts
Full title Tobias and the Archangel Raphael returning with the Fish
Artist After Adam Elsheimer
Artist dates 1578 - 1610
Date made mid-17th century
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 19.3 × 27.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Samuel Sanders, 1894
Inventory number NG1424
Location Room 37
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Tobias and the Archangel Raphael
After Adam Elsheimer

This scene comes from the apocryphal Book of Tobit. Old and blind, Tobit had sent his son Tobias on a long journey to collect a debt on his behalf. Here, Tobias drags an enormous fish across the ground. He is watched closely by the Archangel Raphael, who had instructed the boy to catch a fish, the organs of which could be used to restore Tobit’s sight.

The picture is a copy after an original by Elsheimer known as the ‘The Large Tobias’ (there is a small version by the artist in Frankfurt) and was probably made in the mid-seventeenth century. The large tree on the right has been identified as a eucalyptus, which at the time only grew in its native Australia. Its inclusion here may be explained by Adam Elsheimer’s friendship with the botanist Dr Johann Faber, who, like Elsheimer, was living in Rome when the original version of the picture was made. Faber may have been the painting’s patron, or just provided its botanical references.

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