In the apocryphal Book of Tobit, Tobias travels to the city of Media to collect a debt for his blind father, Tobit, accompanied by the Archangel Raphael. When Tobias stops beside the river Tigris, a fish tries to devour him. Raphael directs him to remove the fish’s heart, liver and gall bladder; these will later restore his father’s sight.
In this picture, the angel and Tobias are dwarfed by a wild and desolate landscape. They are framed by huge pieces of stone and a rocky grotto to the right and splintered trees to the left. The appearance of this picture has changed significantly over time as the varnish has darkened and turned yellow. The vast composition (it’s a little over 2 metres high by 3 metres wide) was painted by an anonymous artist in the style of Salvator Rosa, whose Landscape with Tobias and the Angel is in the National Gallery’s collection.
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