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Tobias and the Angel Dragging the Fish, after Adam Elsheimer
24.9 cm x 26.1 cm (9 13/16 in. x 10 1/4 in.)
(The Hague, 1583 - 1648, Utrecht)
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1981
The subject of this print, a tale of miraculous curing, was popular throughout the seventeenth century. This appealing story was also a favorite among artists as a pretext for elaborate and often beautiful landscapes in art. The narrative comes from the book of Tobit, the father of Tobias. Obeying the tenets of Jewish piety, Tobit buried the corpses of his fellow Israelites who had been executed until, one day, he was blinded by sparrows dung. Tobit sent his son, Tobias, along with the angel Raphael disguised as an Israelite, to retrieve a deposit of silver. During the journey, Raphael instructed Tobias to retrieve a fish from the Tigris. Raphael wanted Tobias to remove its gall, heart, and liver, since it was believed that the smoke from the heart and liver had the power to exorcise demons and that ointment made from the gall would cure blindness. During their journey home, Tobias and Raphael stayed with a kinsman who had a bewitched daughter, Sarah. After exorcising Sarah’s demons by burning the heart and liver of the fish, Tobias and Sarah were married. Upon his return to Tobit, Tobias restored his father's sight by applying the gall of the fish to his eyes. Raphael then disclosed that he was one of God's seven angels and ascended into heaven. The book of Tobit contains prayers, psalms, and aphorisms, most of them put in the mouth of Tobit. It is the oldest Jewish witness of the golden rule (4:15): "And what you hate, do not do to anyone."