Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

Joseph Accused by Potiphar's wife (Washington)

oil on canvas (106 × 98 cm) — 1655 Museum National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn biography

This work is linked to Genesis 39:17

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Potiphar's wife tries to seduce the pious Joseph. When Joseph does not give in, she accuses him of making a pass at her, thus insulting her husband.

According to Genesis, Joseph was not present at the scene: he had fled the room. For dramatic effect Rembrandt includes him in the scene.

The National Gallery says the painting was made in Rembrandt's workshop by an unknown assistant. Another version, also made in 1655, is now in Berlin. It is quite similar to this one.

This biblical passage also inspires Joost van den Vondel, Rembrandt's contemporary and fellow-townsman, and the Netherlands' greatest playwright of their time. Vondel's tragedy Joseph in Egypt appears in 1640. Research has shown that Rembrandt probably attented a performance in 1655 - the year he made these paintings. The actrice who played Potifar's wife may have modelled for Rembrandt's painting.

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