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Jan Lievens, A Landscape with Tobias and the Angel

Key facts
Full title A Landscape with Tobias and the Angel
Artist Jan Lievens
Artist dates 1607 - 1674
Date made 1640-4
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 56.9 × 88.5 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG72
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Landscape with Tobias and the Angel
Jan Lievens

This moody and evocative landscape is more than just a simple pastoral scene. The presence of the angel and the youth in the foreground is a clear sign that it represents the story of Tobias, from the Book of Tobit.

Tobit, who was blind, asked his son Tobias to go on a journey to collect a debt. He was escorted by the Archangel Raphael, who disguised his true identity, and by his dog. As Tobias crossed the River Tigris he was attacked by a fish. Raphael helped him catch it, instructing him to save the heart, liver and gall bladder. When Tobias returned home, Raphael told him to rub his father’s eyes with the gall. The old man’s sight was restored and Raphael revealed his true identity.

This picture almost certainly depicts Tobias carrying the fish under his arm, but the detail is unclear – it could just possibly be his dog, in which case this would then represent the moment just before he is attacked by the fish.

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