The Blindness of Tobit: The Larger Plate

Accession Number

The Blindness of Tobit: The Larger Plate

Rembrandt van Rijn

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching with gray wash on paper

6 1/2 x 5 1/8 in. (16.4 x 13 cm);19 3/8 x 14 3/8 in. (49.1 x 36.5 cm)

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
While the 1641 Tobit scene shows the responses of many people, Rembrandt's depiction of this episode focuses on the inner reaction of one person, exploring its complexities. Here we see Tobit at the moment Tobias has returned and the little dog who accompanied his son running to greet the old man. In his haste Tobit has knocked over Anna's spinning wheel and become disoriented. Raising his right hand in a gesture indicating his blindness, he moves eagerly yet erringly, a poignant note provided by his shadow cast against the wall as he gropingly hits the door.
It was more typical for artists to depict Anna greeting her son outside, with Tobit shown inside the house at the doorway. Only alluding to the scene happening offstage. Rembrandt boldly makes Tobit the center of attention indoors. His contemporary viewer would have identified with the typical seventeenth-century interior, including the pungent detail of fish drying in the fireplace. The fish may also refer to the salve that the archangel Raphael instructed Tobias to make from the gall of a fish that Tobias caught during their journey and used to cure his father's blindness. The sketchily rendered background and large blank areas concentrate attention on the man's haggard face with his dim eyes, his expression a mixture of suffering and frustration, love and expectation. Through minimal means, Rembrandt profoundly suggests what is going on inside the man's mind.
Exhibition label text by Dr. Annette Dixon for "Bold Strokes: The Inventiveness of Rembrandt's Late Prints," February 24 - April 28, 1996.

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Collection Area

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canes (walking sticks)
chairs (furniture forms)

3 Related Resources

The Divine Comedy
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Early Modern European Peasants
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)

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