This painting is one of a series of panels that decorated the bedchamber of the Borgherini palace in Florence. Together, they tell the life of Joseph from the Old Testament (Genesis 43).
Joseph, who had been sold into slavery in Egypt as a boy by his half-brothers, foretold a famine from a dream Pharaoh had, and advised him to stockpile grain. Made vizier of Egypt, Joseph received his half-brothers who came in search of grain, but they did not recognise him. He accused them of spying and demanded that they bring their younger brother to Egypt to prove their honesty.
In this painting, they return to Egypt with their youngest brother, Benjamin – the little boy wearing blue – and gifts from their father. They present the gifts to Joseph in the centre, still not realising he is the brother they sold. Joseph sends them back home with a precious cup hidden in Benjamin’s sack. The outline of the cup is visible below Benjamin’s hand.
This painting is one of a series of panels that decorated a bedchamber in the Borgherini palace in Florence. Together, they tell the story of Joseph from the Old Testament. This panel shows Joseph visited by his brothers (Genesis 43).
Having been sold into slavery by his jealous half-brothers and falsely accused of rape by his master Potiphar’s wife (Joseph sold to Potiphar), Joseph ends up in the Pharaoh of Egypt’s prison, where he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker (Pharaoh with his Butler and Baker). The butler remembers Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams when Pharaoh has a dream of seven fat calves followed by seven lean calves. Joseph says that the dream means that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine and advises Pharaoh to stockpile grain.
Joseph’s brothers have come to Egypt in search of grain (Joseph’s Brothers beg for Help). Joseph, now vizier of Egypt, accuses his half-brothers, who do not recognise him, of spying. When the brothers tell Joseph that they have a younger brother at home, Joseph demands that they bring him to Egypt. He imprisons three of his brothers and sends three back home with their sacks and their purses full. The brothers persuade their father Jacob to allow them to return to Egypt with their younger brother, Benjamin, to prove they are honest men.
In this painting, they return to Egypt with Benjamin – the little boy wearing blue – and gifts from their father. They present the gifts to Joseph in the centre, still not realising he is their long lost-brother. Joseph then sends his brothers back home but with a cup hidden in Benjamin’s sack. The outline of the cup is visible below Benjamin’s hand.
The same figures appear in the panel three times as Bacchiacca tells the different parts of the story. This technique is known as continuous narrative. The different characters appear wearing the same clothes in the other panel of the series by Bacchiacca, so it is possible to read the story clearly across both. However, Bacchiacca’s figures differ in appearance and clothing from those in the panels by Pontormo, where the people have the oval faces and dark, round eye sockets typical of his own figure style.
The next part of the story is told in Joseph pardons his Brothers also by Bacchiacca.
Download an 800px wide, 72dpi copy of this image.
License and download a high resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.
This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.
Examples of non-commercial use are:
The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.
As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.
You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.
This group of paintings were made as a series and would have been displayed together.