Week 9: Famous Art

All this week's missions are about famous pieces of art!

More From Week 9: Famous Art

Mission 4: Tobias and the Angel

All this week we're finding out about some of the most famous paintings ever! Today's painting is called Tobias and the Angel

Tobias and the Angel is a famous painting based on a famous old tale. Look closely at the painting though, something about it looks very strange… can you spot the ghostly dog and stone wall in the picture?

Listen to this audio clip to find out a little more about the painting…

What’s the painting about?

The painting depicts the story of Tobias and the Angel.

In the story an old blind man sends his son Tobias and his dog on an errand. Tobias meets a stranger on the way who helps him out when he gets attacked by a fish and even helps him find a wife!

And if that wasn’t enough, on his way home the stranger helps Tobias cure his father’s blindness. 

But how is this all possible? Well, the stranger is really the angel Raphael!

In the painting you can see the angel Raphael on the left and Tobias on the right.

Who painted it?

It was painted by an Italian painter called Andrea del Verrocchio.

The piece was painted somewhere around 1470 – 1475.

Andrea del Verrocchio actually taught some very famous artists from that time including Leonardo da Vinci!

Why is there a ghost dog in the painting?

If you look at Raphael’s feet you can see Tobias’ dog, but he seems a little bit see-through!

He wasn’t meant to be transparent but over the centuries the paint used has faded. It is over 500 years old, after all!

The colour underneath has lasted better and so is showing through. It’s a fairly common problem with old paintings.

You can see that the same thing has happened with the brick wall at Tobias’ feet.

So fading paint on old paintings is common?


Paint will fade over time as will lots of coloured things. If you’ve ever been in an old house that has old wall paper on the walls it might look old and dull. That’s probably because the colours have faded over time – they most likely used to look at lot brighter and nicer.

Even Sunflowers by Van Gogh is said to have faded. Originally it was much brighter than it is today! Van Gogh said himself “paintings fade like flowers” – that’s why he liked using such bright colours!

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Can you do anything to fix a faded painting?

You can always repaint any parts that are faded but you have to really careful not to ruin the painting. There are special artists who’s job it is to restore old paintings.

There’s a lot of risks when trying to restore a painting, unless you know exactly what paint was used then the new colours may not match. Whilst high power microscopes can help identify the ingredients in the original paint, it isn’t always possible to recreate them exactly. Even simple ingredients will be different. Verrocchio used egg to make his paints but we have no way of getting hold of the same type of egg, and even small differences will affect the finish.

That’s why it’s safer sometimes not to repaint. Old paintings CAN sometimes be cleaned – painstakingly with swabs the size of cotton buds and special cleaning products.  But even still, it’s a bit risky! Before any cleaning is done, restorers need to be absolutely certain that the soap they’re cleaning with is not going to clean off the paint underneath.

Embed from Getty Images

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Week 9: Famous Art

All this week's missions are about famous pieces of art!

More From Week 9: Famous Art