(b. 1494, Pontormo, d. 1557, Firenze)

Joseph Being Sold to Potiphar

Oil on wood, 58 x 50 cm
National Gallery, London

The painting belongs to the series of four entitled Scenes from the Life of Joseph the Hebrew, now in the National Gallery, London. These works, together with others by Andrea del Sarto, Francesco Granacci, Bachiacca and Franciabigio, were intended for the decoration of the nuptial chamber of Francesco Borgherini and Margherita Acciaioli, who married in 1515. The group of fourteen paintings, broken up at the end of the 16th century, was contained within a wooden decoration made by Baccio d'Agnolo.

In Joseph Being Sold to Potiphar, as in the Punishment of the Baker, the artist uses the arrangement of figures to guide the onlooker's gaze from the foreground towards the background of the painting. In the former the action follows a serpentine course, in the latter a zigzagging one.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Étienne Nicolas Méhul: Joseph, aria