While imprisoned, Joseph, shown here standing to the left, interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh's butler and baker, also thrown into jail for offending their master. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn conveyed the moment when the baker, in a flat cap, discovers that Pharaoh will have him hanged in three days. The butler, who learns that he will be restored to his position, leans forward, hands clasped, listening intently. Joseph's predictions for these two came true, and his interpretation of Pharaoh's dream saved all of Egypt two years later.
As with most of his compositional studies of religious subjects, Rembrandt probably made this drawing not as a preparatory study for a project but for its own sake. His working methods were highly experimental; he himself may have joined together the two sheets of paper that comprise this drawing. On one sheet he developed detailed studies of the butler and baker; on the other he captured Joseph with the fewest pen marks possible. Rembrandt used iron-gall ink, originally black but now faded to brown.