The J. Paul Getty Museum

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

Object Details


Joseph and Potiphar's Wife


Guido Reni (Italian, 1575 - 1642)




Italy (Place Created)


about 1630


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



126.4 × 169.5 cm (49 3/4 × 66 3/4 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

Genesis (39:7–20) tells how Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, was bought by Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh's guard. Potiphar's wife (who is not named in the Bible) took a liking to the young man and made several failed attempts to seduce him. Here, Reni illustrates one such occasion—the wife clutches Joseph’s robes, pleading with him to make love to her. The virtuous Joseph turns to flee, leaving a fragment of his torn cloak in her hands. Humiliated, the vengeful wife accused Joseph of rape, using this piece of fabric as evidence. Joseph was promptly thrown into prison, where his interpretation of the dreams of other inmates eventually lead to his rise in Pharaoh's household.

Moralizing narratives such as this one found popularity in seventeenth-century Europe where, in the spirit of Counter-Reformation sobriety, they served as a warning against the dangers of carnal desire and of the female temptress, and to instruct viewers on combatting the temptation of sin. This scene, however, conveys the message that virtue and integrity are not always immediately rewarded, but require patience and faith in God. The subject also proved a suitable opportunity for the Bolognese master, Guido Reni, to showcase his widely-celebrated skill in drapery painting.


Lorenzo Pasinelli, Italian, 1629 - 1700 (Bologna, Italy)

by 1706 - 1712

Senator Francesco Ghisilieri, 1650 - 1712 (Bologna, Italy), by inheritance to his son, Antonio Ghisilieri.

by 1712 - possibly 1721/27

Antonio Ghisilieri (Bologna, Italy)

by 1734 - 1753

Tommaso Ruffo, archbishop of Ferrara, 1663 - 1753 (Bologna, Italy; Ferrara, Italy; Rome, Italy), by inheritance to Litterio Ruffo di Bagnara, 2nd Duke of Baranello.

by 1762

Litterio Ruffo di Bagnara, 2nd duke of Baranello, 1704 - 1772 (Naples, Italy), by inheritance to his son, Vincenzo Ruffo di Bagnara.


Private Collection (Lugano, Switzerland)

- 1993

Compagnie des Beaux Arts LTD (Lugano, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993.

Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna, 1575-1725 (December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009

Malvasia, Carlo Cesare. Felsina Pittrice: Vite de Pittori Bolognesi. 2 vols. (Bologna: Erede di Domenico Barbieri, 1678), vol. 1, p. 88.

Agnelli, Jacopo. Galleria di pitture dell'...Cardinale Tommaso Ruffo (Ferrara: Bernardino Pomatelli Stampatore Vescovale, 1734), pp. 40-41.

Strange, Robert. A descriptive catalogue of a collection of pictures...with a catalogue of thirty-two drawings from capital paintings to great masters collected and drawn, during a journey of several years in Italy (London: 1769), p. 157.

Malvasia, Carlo Cesare. Felsina Pittrice: Vite de Pittori Bolognesi del Conte Cesare Malvasia. Giampetro Zanotti, ed. (1678; repr., Bologna: Tipografia Guidi all'Ancora, 1841), p. 63.

Strange, Robert. The Works of Sir Robert Strange: a Collection of Historical Prints Engraved from Pictures [...] (London: 1874), no. XXV.

England and the Seicento, exh. cat. (London: Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd., 1973), no. 46, fig. 46.

Pepper, Stephen. Guido Reni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text (Oxford: Phaidon, 1984), under no. 105, pp. 253-54; 1988, under Ruffo/Baronelli painting.

Guido Reni, 1575-1642, exh. cat. (Bologna and Los Angeles: Nuova Alfa, 1988), p. 238, under no. 234.

Pepper, Stephen. Guido Reni: L'Opera completa. Gloria Vallese, trans. (Novara: Instituto Geografico De Agostini, 1988), pp. 259-60, 356, no. 94, fig. 86.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 104, ill.

Spear, Richard E. The "Divine" Guido: Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 340, under no. 87.

Zuffi, Stefano. Amore ed erotismo (Milan: Electa, 2008), p. 198, ill.

Schaefer, Scott. "The Bolognese Baroque in Los Angeles and Southern California." In Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna, 1575-1725, exh. cat. Andreas Henning and Scott Schaefer, eds. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008), pp. 51, 113, pl. 16.

Dempsey, Charles. "Painting in Bologna from the Carracci to Crespi." In Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna, 1575-1725, exh. cat. Andreas Henning and Scott Schaefer, eds. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008), pp. 13, 51, pl. 16.

Kerber, Peter Björn. "Desire, Rejection, Revenge: Joseph and Potiphar's Wife." In Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna, 1575-1725, exh. cat. Andreas Henning and Scott Schaefer, eds. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008), pp. 46, 48-49, 51, pl. 16.

Zuffi, Stefano. Love and the Erotic in Art. Stephen Sartarelli, trans. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 198, ill.

Cavicchioli, Sonia. “Il Seicento Bolognese: i Carracci, Guido Reni.” In Il collezionismo del cardinal Tommaso Ruffo tra Ferrara e Roma. Mario Alberto Pavone, ed. (Rome: Campisano Editore, 2013), pp. 46-48, 215, pl. 11.

Brady, Aoife. “The Studio of Guido Reni from 1620 to 1630: Formulating Compositions.” Getty Research Journal 12 (2020), pp. 2, 13, 15, 17-22, 25n5, 27n43, fig.6.