In Christian iconography, the image of a guardian angel was a significant visual and emotional conduit between God in heaven and man on earth. While not a commonplace image, it was most commonly seen in the 16th to 18th centuries as a guide to good thoughts and the guardian from evil.
Pictorially, one of the most popular guardian angels was Raphael, who, in the Apocryphal book of Tobit, accompanied and protected the young Tobias, son of Tobit, on a journey to Media. One such depiction was by the painter Raphael, who represents his guardian namesake presenting Tobias to the Virgin and Child in the Madonna del Pesce (Museo del Prado, Madrid). In later versions of the theme one sees a (sometimes) winged male figure striding forward with a child to his side. This is the case in a carved wood group offered for sale in Christie's, New York (11 January 1994, lot 40) catalogued as An Allegorical Group from Franconia and dating to the mid 18th century. Compositionally and date-wise this group relates to the present lot representing the same subject. Further similarities can also be seen in the 1763 Schutzengelgruppe (Bürgersaal, Munich) by south German sculptor Ignaz Günther (1725-1775 (see Schoeneberger, loc. cit.)) where a similar attention to movement and intimacy between the two figures can be seen.
While obvious differences in style are evident among the three groups, the recurrence of this uncommon theme suggests a tradition for representing this subject especially in the workshops of south Germany and Austria.