I’ve been studying images of Tobias and the Angel, and here are a few that have caught my eye, not least because of the ways in which the dog has been portrayed.
In the contemporary statue by Ken Thompson (above) the angel’s dog paws for attention from Tobias, whose hand absently scratches at the animal’s ear… at least that’s the way I read it. It’s a plain, work-a-day sort of a dog, the kind that a shepherd would use to herd his flock. Nothing fancy, but obedient and affectionate. The statue is at Bleddfa in Powys.
In the first painting below by Filipino Lippi, dating from about 1475- 1480, the dog is of a fancier breed. Nevertheless it has its nose down on the scent of something interesting. A well-groomed pet and clearly loved, portrayed as going about its business and almost oblivious to its companions.
By contrast at the bottom of today’s post is a painting attributed to the workshop of the Italian painter Andrea del Verrocchio in which Raphael’s dog is shown with its head up and ears flying, matching the pace of its travelling companions with lively attention. Its coat clipped decoratively, this confident and charming animal exudes character and the sense of being off on an adventure. I’ve met many dogs just like it.
In the second image below, a seventeenth century etching by Wenceslas Hollar, the dog perches wonderfully, tail up and concentration focussed, caught in the moment of gathering itself to bound to the stone ahead. My much loved dog Riot, now long gone, would similarly cling to my heels in like circumstances, until confidence got the better of him and he’d wriggle around me to get ahead, sometimes knocking us both into the water in the process. This image makes me smile, not least because of Raphael’s tender gesture of reassurance as he steadies Tobias, the boy hampered in his balance by that rather large fish under one arm.