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Tobias Healing His Father's Blindness

Tobias Healing His Father's Blindness

c. 1640-45

Rembrandt van Rijn

(Dutch, 1606-1669)

Pen and brown ink, touched with white gouache, framing lines in brown ink

Support: Beige(1) laid paper

Sheet: 21.1 x 17.7 cm (8 5/16 x 6 15/16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1969.69


Rembrandt created some of the most extraordinarily creative and emotionally poignant drawings of the Dutch golden age. With spontaneity, a deft hand, and deceptive simplicity, he recorded deeply personal observations of the world around him. Although this drawing depicts the climactic moment of the Book of Tobit, an apocryphal book of the Old Testament, it also references 16th-century life in Amsterdam. Instructed by the archangel Raphael, Tobit’s son Tobias restores his blind father’s sight by rubbing his eyes with fish gall. But instead of illustrating the miracle in explicitly supernatural terms, Rembrandt showed Tobias using a scalpel to perform a cataract operation on his father’s left eye-a procedure pioneered in Amsterdam in 1635 by the eye specialist Dr. Job Janszoon van Meekren.

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