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Joseph pardons his Brothers
Bacchiacca
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This painting is one of a series of panels painted in 1515 for the Florentine bedchamber of Pierfrancesco Borgherini. They tell the life of Joseph from the Old Testament and were probably originally set into furniture.

Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery as a boy, come to Egypt to seek grain during a famine. Joseph, now vizier of Egypt, accuses his half-brothers, who do not recognise him, of spying. When they tell Joseph that they have a younger brother at home, Joseph demands that they bring him to Egypt.

In Joseph receives his Brothers, the brothers return to Egypt with their youngest brother, Benjamin. Joseph sends them back with a cup hidden in Benjamin’s sack. The next morning, Joseph sends his steward to find the ‘missing’ cup.

In this painting, which depicts three different moments in the story as a continuous narrative, the brothers are brought to Joseph, with Benjamin a prisoner. They beg for Joseph’s mercy; he reveals his true identity and forgives them.

Key facts
Artist Bacchiacca
Artist dates 1495 - 1557
Full title Joseph pardons his Brothers
Group Scenes from the Story of Joseph
Date made probably 1515
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 36.2 x 141.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1886
Inventory number NG1219
Location in Gallery Room 7
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Scenes from the Story of Joseph

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These six pictures by Pontormo and Bacchiacca were part of a larger series of panel paintings commissioned to celebrate the marriage of Pierfrancesco Borgherini to Margherita Accaiuoli in 1515. The series decorated the couple’s bedroom in the Borgherini palace in Florence. Francesco Granacci and Andrea del Sarto also contributed to the decorative scheme, which would have been one of the most sumptuous of the time. The paintings, telling the story of Joseph from the Old Testament (Genesis 39), would have been set into the wall panelling and furniture.

Pontormo’s interest in the emerging new style known as Mannerism – a reaction against the harmony, proportion and naturalism of High Renaissance art – is evident in his bright colours, disconcertingly unnatural approach to space, elongated figures and spiralling compositions. Bacchiacca’s scenes are expressive and dramatic but stylistically more conventional.

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