“The Healing of Tobias’ father”, Gianantonio Guardi, c. 1750, Church of San Angelo Rafaele, Venice.
At the centre of this painting, the Archangel Raphael spreads his wings against the sky. With loose brush work, and colours from the sky, feather and cloud merge. Underneath Raphael’s outstretched wings, Tobit, the father of Tobias, is healed of his blindness. This painting is one of five which tell the wonderful story of Tobias and the Archangel. They are to be found above the organ of the Church of San Angelo Raffaele in Venice. The church is a bit off the tourist trail, which in Venice, can be an advantage! The white facade of the church rises above the Rio D’Anzolo Rafael. From a niche above the main door, the Archangel Raphael, who is the patron saint of fishermen, looks down upon those who pass along the Rio, with Tobias holding a fish on on the left and a dog to the right. It is only 7 minutes walk from the railway station (if you know the way). The artist Gianantonio Guardi was a brother of the more famous Francesco Guardi. Their sister was married to Tiepolo. He was not as well-known as his brother and brother-in-law, and for a long time many of his works were attributed to the better known members of his family. But to my mind, this is in keeping with the character of the Archangel Raphael, whose presence is often unseen. In the scriptures, Raphael’s unobtrusive presence brings healing to human lives. On this World Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants, let us ask that Archangel’s healing presence will be with those who must leave their families and homelands and that through his intercession they will find places of safety and welcome. The Feast of the Archangels is on Thursday.
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