National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Tobias and the Angel Filippino Lippi (painter)
Florentine, 1457 - 1504
Tobias and the Angel, c. 1475/1480
oil and tempera (?) on panel
painted surface: 32.7 x 23.5 cm (12 7/8 x 9 1/4 in.) overall: 34.45 x 25.4 cm (13 9/16 x 10 in.) framed: 47.6 x 38.1 x 5.7 cm (18 3/4 x 15 x 2 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1939.1.229
On View
From the Tour: Patrons and Artists in Late 15th-Century Florence
Object 8 of 8

This painting is based on the Book of Tobit which tells the story of Tobit of Nenevah. Tobit is described as a man of good faith who suffers from blindness and poverty. He sent his son, Tobias, to a distant city to collect money he had deposited there, and hired a companion to accompany the youth. The companion was actually the archangel Raphael in disguise. Their journey was successful: not only was the money recovered, but medicine made from a monstrous fish Tobias encounters along the way cures Tobit's blindness.

In Hebrew, Raphael's name means "God has healed." In this painting, Raphael holds a golden mortar used for compounding medicinal ingredients. Although the archangel is usually shown with a mortar or medicine box, his identity here is established by the presence of Tobias holding a fish. Raphael is named only in the Book of Tobit.

The story of Tobit may have been particularly popular in fifteenth-century Florence because of its appeal to merchant families, whose sons were often sent to trade in far-away cities. Paintings of Tobias and his angelic guardian were likely commissioned as dedications to ensure a safe journey, or offer thanks for a safe return. The painting's suggestion of reward for fair dealing may have been equally welcome.

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