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The Dramatic Image: Baroque Prints of the 17th Century

Hendrik Goudt
Dutch, 1583–1648
After Adam Elsheimer
German 1578–1610

Tobias with the Angel (The Large Tobias)

Engraving, 1613
Frederick B. and Kate L. Shoemaker Fund, 1976.10

This is an early example of a work that dramatically displays ideas and emotions through chiaroscuro, a defining attribute of Dutch Baroque painting and printmaking during the Golden Age of the seventeenth century. Hendrik Goudt specialized in night scenes rich in deep shadow and isolated highlights; producing such rich darks in an engraving is remarkable. The strong contrasts of light and dark are particularly appropriate for the subject of Tobias and the Angel: blindness and its cure are at the heart of the story. Tobias, son of the blind merchant Tobit, is told by the archangel Raphael in disguise to catch a fish and save its gall, for it will cure Tobit’s blindness.Adam Elsheimer, on whose painting this print is based, died a young man in Rome. By accounts he was a very poor manager of his time and money. He was sentenced to debtor’s prison despite receiving high payments for his work. After his death, Peter Paul Rubens—one of the premier painters of the Baroque era—wrote, “I pray that God will forgive Signor Adam his sin of sloth…with his own hands he could have built up a great fortune and made himself respected by all the world.”