etching and drypoint: 10,5 x 15 cm; cut to the platemark
signed and dated lower left: ‘Rembrandt f 1641’
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The highly dramatic episode depicted in this etching is a story from the apocryphal Book of Tobit, which was part of the Catholic canon but whose drama also attracted Protestant artists like Rembrandt. After (amongst other miracles) restoring to Tobit his lost sight, the angel Raphael reveals his identity to Tobit and and his son Tobias, the heroes of the book, saying:
“I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.” Then they were both troubled, and fell upon their faces: for they feared God. But he said unto them, “Fear not, for it shall go well with you; praise God therefore. For not of any favour of mine, but by the will of our God I came; wherefore praise him for ever. All these days I did appear unto you; but I did neither eat nor drink, but ye did see a vision. Now therefore give God thanks: for I go up to him that sent me.” And when they arose, they saw him no more. (Tobit 12:15; King James Version).
The etching shows the moment just after the heaven-bound angel has risen and is visible in his foreshortened form. The contrasting attitudes of the stunned beholders are highly effectively conveyed, as is the contrast of earthly and heavenly sensations. The open chest at the bottom right relates to Tobit’s offer of half his worldly treasures to his benefactor – who as an angel has naturally refused them. A related painting of 1637 (Louvre, Paris) depicts the same theme, but moments earlier when Raphael is considerably more visible. It takes a vertical rather than a horizontal form, as here.
Bartsch 43; ‘The New Hollstein’, 2013, no.189, 2nd state (of IX)
a fine, clear and balanced 17th century impression,
with traces of burr and with the sulphur tint printing effectively
Plate exists in Bostom Museum of Arts – with Nowell-Usticke: C2
Shelley Perlove and Larry Silver, Rembrandt’s Faith: Church and Temple in the Dutch Golden Age (Pennsylvania, 2009), pp. 154-57.