Sebastiano Ricci
(Belluno 1659 – Venice 1734)

Tobias Restoring His Father Tobit’s Sight

1680–1690 – oil on canvas, cm 121 x 166

The painting illustrates an episode of the Old Testament taken from the story of Tobias and his long journey to save his family from ruin. After having faced a number of hard trials and collected a debt with the help of Archangel Raphael – whom God had sent to earth in disguise to assist the youth – Tobias finally returned home. Upon his arrival, he restored his father’s sight with an ointment made with the gall of a fish he had caught with the angel’s help.

Sebastiano Ricci captured the moment when Tobias applies the miraculous ointment on his father’s eyes. The characters’ theatrical gestures and expressions exalt this famous painter’s narrative skill, a quality that is particularly manifest in the works of this phase of Ricci’s career, that is between 1680 and 1700, at the height of his relations with Carraccesque and post-Carraccesque artists from Emilia – a time when he was still mainly working in Bologna and Parma before permanently returning to Venice.