Abraham Bloemaert: Joseph and his Brothers (1595-1600)

(Centraal Museum, Utrecht, the Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Abraham Bloemaert (1564-1651). The painting shows a scene from the Biblical book of Genesis (Genesis 42:1-17). Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. In Egypt Joseph came into the service of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard. When Potiphar's wife Zuleika tried to seduce Joseph, Joseph refused and in revenge Zuleika claimed that Joseph tried to rape her. Joseph was put into prison during which he interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners and the Pharaoh's chief cup-bearer and chief baker. When the Epytian Pharaoh had a dream of seven lean cows which devoured seven fat cows; and of seven withered ears of grain which devoured seven fat ears, Joseph was called to interpret the dream. Joseph explained that the dream meant seven years of abundance were to be followed by seven years of famine and advised to store surplus grain. following this Joseph was released from prison and became Vizier - taking an Egyptian name and wife. When the famine arrived people from surrounding countries came to Egypt for bread - including the former brothers of Joseph. When the brotehrs were taken to Joseph they didn't recognize him but Joseph recognized his brothers. claiming that they were spies, Joseph placed his brothers for three days in a prison (in the end Joseph reveals himself and everybody reconciles). The painting shows this part of the story of Joseph. The style of the figures is typical of Mannerism. Painting from 1595-1600.

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