This small panel is typical of the type of painted works produced in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence during the 1470s, which clearly exhibits the work of different artists.
The painting is sometimes attributed to Perugino, who was said to have worked in Verrocchio’s workshop and parts such as the dog and the fish are thought to have been painted by Leonardo.
According to the book of Tobit, Tobias was sent by his blind father to collect a debt from a distant city. The Archangel Raphael, who escorts him and his little dog, bade him extract the heart, liver and gall from a fish that he had caught in the river Tigris after it had tried to devour him. The heart and liver were burned in order to ward off evil spirits and the gall was used to restore the eyesight of Tobias’s father.
During the Renaissance, the concept of a “Guardian angel” was widespread. Raphael was venerated as a protector of travellers and as a healer. In Italy, the theme of Tobias was often used by a family to commemorate the travels of a son in whose likeness Tobias would sometimes be depicted. This sort of painting was especially popular in Florence amongst the members of a confraternity devoted to the Archangel Raphael.