The subject of this painting comes from the apocryphal Book of Tobit, which tells the story of Tobit, an Israelite living in Assyrian Ninevah. Tobit suffered from blindness and poverty. He sent his son, Tobias, to collect money he had deposited years earlier with relatives and hired a companion to accompany his son. The companion was actually the archangel Raphael in disguise. Their journey was successful: not only was the money recovered, but medicine made from a fish encountered along the way cured Tobit’s blindness.
In this painting Raphael and Tobias have returned from their journey, and Raphael has revealed himself as an angel, resplendent in white. Raphael prepares to apply the medicine held by Tobias; the recovered moneybag lies in the lower right corner of the painting. The glorious figure of the angel contrasts sharply with the humble barnyard setting.