Joseph (Old Testament)Joseph was one of Jacob's 12 sons. His father loved him more than any of the others and gave him a coloured cloak. His brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt and eventually became steward to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials. Potiphar's wife tried unsuccessfully to seduce him and after false accusations were levelled at Joseph he was imprisoned. Due to his ability to interpret Pharaoh's dream he was made governor of Egypt. He wisely rationed the country's produce in preparation for a time of famine.
During the famine Jacob's sons came to Egypt to plead with Joseph for supplies. They did not recognise him but after he was satisfied that they were reformed he identified himself with great joy. Joseph invited his father and brothers to come and settle in Egypt. The story is recounted in the Old Testament (Genesis 37, 39-45)
Joseph is often seen as an Old Testament equivalent, or prefiguration, of Christ. Scenes from Joseph's story were painted by Pontormo and Bacchiacca for Pierfrancesco Borgherini.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN