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The Archangel Raphael with Tobias
Pietro Perugino
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This panel is one of three that come from the lower tier of an altarpiece made for the Duke of Milan; the other two are also in the National Gallery’s collection.

The Archangel Raphael is the hero of the Book of Tobit, which is part of the Roman Catholic Bible. Tobit sent his son Tobias on a long journey, and Raphael was sent by God to accompany the boy. Tobias holds a freshly caught and gutted fish; Raphael had instructed him to keep its heart, liver and gall as they could be used as ointment to cure blindness and burnt to drive away evil spirits. The archangel holds the precious organs in a little box.

The pair were joined in their travels by Tobias’s dog. We can only see its head here at the bottom of the panel, as the lower edge – like that of the other panels – was cut down in the eighteenth century.

Key facts
Artist Pietro Perugino
Artist dates living 1469; died 1523
Full title The Archangel Raphael with Tobias
Group Three Panels from an Altarpiece, Certosa
Date made about 1496-1500
Medium and support Oil with some egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 113.3 x 56.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1856
Inventory number NG288.3
Location in Gallery Room 61
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Three Panels from an Altarpiece, Certosa

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Perugino painted this altarpiece for the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. It stood in the side chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael in the Carthusian monastery (also known as a charterhouse or certosa) in Pavia, a town outside Milan. The Duke was captured by invading French forces in 1499, and the altarpiece was completed in the early sixteenth century by two other painters: Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli.

Our panels formed the lower tier of two in this large-scale construction. The upper tier showed the Annunciation: the Archangel Gabriel, on one panel, giving the Virgin Mary, on another panel, the news that she would conceive the son of God. Between these panels was an image of God in glory, which is still in the church.

The painting shows Perugino’s skill in working with oil paint. Because oil paint dries slowly, it is possible to blend different tones together to create subtle transitions, particularly evident here in the figures' flesh – their cheeks, for example, have a rosy blush.

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