Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

Object Details

Title:

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

Artist/Maker:

Guido Reni (Italian, 1575 - 1642)

Culture:

Italian

Place:

Italy (Place created)

Date:

about 1630

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Object Number:

93.PA.57

Dimensions:

126.4 × 170 cm (49 3/4 × 66 15/16 in.)

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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.

Provenance
-

Lorenzo Pasinelli, 1629 - 1700

by 1706 - 1712

Senator Francesco Ghisilieri, 1650 - 1712, by inheritance to his son, Antonio Ghisilieri.

by 1712 - possibly 1721/27

Antonio Ghisilieri

by 1734 - 1753

Tommaso Ruffo, archbishop of Ferrara, 1663 - 1753, by inheritance to Litterio Ruffo di Bagnara, 2nd Duke of Baranello.

by 1762

Litterio Ruffo di Bagnara, second duke of Baranello, 1704 - 1772, by inheritance to his son, Vincenzo Ruffo di Bagnara.

1772 -

Vincenzo Ruffo di Bagnara, third duke of Baranello

-

Private Collection

- 1993

Compagnie des Beaux Arts LTD, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993.

Exhibitions
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
Bibliography

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

Agnelli, Jacopo. Galleria di pitture dell'...Cardinale Tommaso Ruffo (Ferrara, 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, by Robert Strange (London: 1769), p. 157.

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).

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," exhib. cat. (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth: 1988).

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 & London: 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.

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