Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Tobias Curing His Father's Blindness

Bernardo Strozzi (Italian, Genoa 1581–1644 Venice)
Oil on canvas
57 1/2 x 88 in. (146.1 x 223.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mary Wetmore Shively Bequest, in memory of her husband, Henry L. Shively, M.D., 1957
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 601
The subject of the painting is drawn from the apocryphal Book of Tobit, which tells how the archangel Raphael directed Tobias to cure his father’s blindness with the gall of the fish he had caught. Although born in Genoa, Bernardo Strozzi moved to Venice in 1630. This canvas was painted in Venice and its composition was repeated by the artist on at least two other occasions. Strozzi’s work is characterized by a distinctive vibrant brushwork and an attention to still-life details.
[David Koetser, New York, until 1957; sold to MMA]
Bordeaux. Galerie des Beaux-Arts. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 107.

R. F. C. "Note e commenti: mostra delle collezioni donate in cinquant'anni al Metropolitan Museum di New York." Emporium 127 (March 1958), ill. p. 113.

Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. "Algunas obras de Bernardo Strozzi en España." Archivo español de arte no. 132 (1960), p. 422 n. 3, notes that it is very similar to the version then in the Peña Castillo collection, Madrid (now in the Prado), which he calls the artist's final version of the subject, dating from the last years of his Venetian period; suggests incorrectly that the MMA painting may be identified with the work formerly in the Brass collection, Venice.

Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. Pintura italiana del s. XVII en España. PhD diss., Universidad de Madrid. Madrid, 1965, p. 540.

Luisa Mortari. Bernardo Strozzi. Rome, 1966, pp. 59, 71, 95, 107, 128, 136, 139, 141, 145, 155, 181, 184, figs. 318, 319 (detail), calls it Strozzi's most beautiful example of this theme, and notes replicas in the Peña Castillo collection, Madrid (now Prado), a private collection, Genoa (now Cleveland Museum of Art), and the Torrigiani collection, Florence; dates it about 1640, later than the other versions of the subject; relates it to the "Allegory of Fame" (National Gallery, London), which she dates to about the same time.

Michael Milkovich. Bernardo Strozzi: Paintings and Drawings. Exh. cat., University Art Gallery, State University of New York at Binghamton. Binghamton, 1967, ill. p. 98.

Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. Pintura italiana del siglo XVII. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 1970, p. 552, under no. 184.

Piero Torriti in La pittura a Genova e in Liguria dal Seicento al primo Novecento. Genoa, 1971, pp. 62, 553, lists it incorrectly as in the Modiano collection, New York.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 193, 265, 609.

Brigitte Klesse. Kataloge des Wallraf-Richartz-Museums. Vol. 6, Katalog der italienischen, französischen und spanischen Gemälde bis 1800 im Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Cologne, 1973, p. 121, under no. 1886, attributes the MMA and Madrid pictures to Strozzi and calls the one in Florence a copy and the one in Genoa (now Cleveland) a reduced version.

A. Pigler. Barockthemen: Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. 2nd ed. [first ed. 1956]. Budapest, 1974, vol. 1, p. 189.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 302, 317, fig. 569.

Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript for catalogue of North Italian paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. n.d. [ca. 1980], call it "the first and autograph version of a composition that Strozzi executed at the beginning of his Venetian period (about 1630–1635)"; state that the paintings in Madrid and Genoa (now Cleveland) "show apparently the master's hand although the slightly inferior quality suggests the help of pupils".

John Pope-Hennessy in Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso. Exh. cat., Galerie des Beaux-Arts. Bordeaux, 1981, p. 91, no. 107, ill.

Rodolfo Pallucchini. La pittura veneziana del Seicento. [Venice], 1981, vol. 1, p. 159.

Alan Chong. "Bernardo Strozzi: 'The Healing of Tobit'." Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 80 (April 1993), pp. 155–57 nn. 4, 8, dates it to the Venetian period in the mid-1630s; disagrees with the idea that the Genoa picture (now owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art) is a repetition, calling it instead Strozzi's earliest version of the subject; dates the Cleveland painting to the mid-1620s, during the artist's Genoese period, based on the brushwork, color, and the presence of underdrawing and pentimenti; refers to the Cleveland picture as a "modello," which Strozzi took with him to Venice and used, perhaps with the help of his workshop, to produce the MMA, Madrid, and Florence versions of the composition.

Luisa Mortari. Bernardo Strozzi. Rome, 1995, pp. 47–48, 177–80, no. 435, ill. p. 178 and pl. XX (detail).

Lorenza Rossi in Bernardo Strozzi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Genoa. Milan, 1995, p. 216, under no. 59.

Horton A. Johnson. "Fish Bile and Cautery: Trachoma Treatment in Art." Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 98 (January 2005), p. 30, fig. 1.

Svetlana Vsevolozskaja. Museo Statale Ermitage: la pittura italiana del Seicento. Milan, 2010, p. 250, under no. 268.

Camillo Manzitti. Bernardo Strozzi. Turin, 2013, pp. 26, 213–14, no. 315, ill., dates it about 1640; mentions that there are numerous workshop copies; calls the Madrid version a replica of almost equal quality.

The subject of this picture, taken from the Book of Tobit, depicts Tobias, directed by the archangel Raphael, curing his father's blindness with the gall of a fish he has caught.

A second almost identical version of the composition formerly in the Peña Castillo collection, Madrid, is now in the Museo del Prado. A reduced copy formerly in the collection of Angelo Costa, Genoa, is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. There is also a replica in the Torrigiani collection, Florence.

The prototype of a second version of the subject is in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, with copies in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig; Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck; S. Zaccaria, Venice; I. Brass, Venice; and Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne. There are also versions recorded in the Landesbildgalerie, Graz, and the Galleria l'Estocoquoi, Paris.
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