St. Raphael with Tobias and the Dog

Bronze or gilt over wood
St. Mark's Basilica, Venice

The artist has chosen to combine the iconography of guardian-angel images with that of St. Raphael's journey with Tobias. At the base we see figures reaching up from flaming torments, a fixture in some instances of an iconographic type in which a guardian angel helps a poor child across treacherous terrain. Above, St. Raphael guides the young Tobias. Their identity is confirmed by the fish dangling from the boy's left hand and the dog that accompanied the two on their journey to Media.

The figures in fire may be souls in Purgatory, as they are in this statuette of a guardian angel leading a soul to Heaven, or they may represent suffering humanity awaiting the Redeemer. In medieval allegoresis Raphael and Tobias stand for the divine and human natures of Christ, and the dog for the "Doctors of the Church" whose writings alert Christians to the intrusions of heretics. The dog's vigilant stance and Raphael's heavenward gesture may be related to this interpretation.

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Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.