Jan Brueghel the Elder’s "Landscape with the Young Tobias" shows a merry company in an imaginary riverside setting. In its crowded midst, the religious scene can scarcely be seen: Tobais, on the advice of his companion, the Archangel Raphael, pulls a fish out of the water. He will use its gall to cure his father’s blindness. The real subject here, however, is the meticulously painted landscape into whose depths the composition leads the viewer’s gaze. The break in the forest and the course of the river lead one’s gaze to the centre of the picture. Beyond it, reality fades into the atmospheric distance. The impression of depth is achieved by the considered use of colour: it gradually diminishes in intensity as it moves away from the colourful figures in the brown foreground via the green forested area in the middle distance to terminate in the blue haze into which the mountains disappear.
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Jan Brueghel the Elder
Landscape with Young Tobias, 1598
Oil on copper
height 36 cm, width 55 cm
Signed and dated bottom left: BRVEGHEL, 1598
Inv.-No. GE477
Provenance: 1787 acquired by Prince Alois I von Liechtenstein from the collection of his librarian, Abbé Valentin Lucchini, in Vienna
Further works on display
Mountain Landscape with Pilgrims in a Grotto Chapel, c. 1616
Related themes
Samson and Delilah. A Rubens painting returns
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