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Joseph and the Wife of Putiphar
Tintoretto, Jacopo Robusti
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Tintoretto, Jacopo Robusti

Venice (Italy), 1518 - Venice, 1594

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Joseph and the Wife of Putiphar

Ca. 1555. Oil on canvas.
Room 044

Joseph is a handsome and virtuous slave falsely accused of rape by his master´s wife, whose advances he has rejected. He is imprisoned, but eventually raised to the highest office by Pharaoh (Exodus: 39). Joseph and the Wife of Putiphar and Susannah and the Elders (P386) can be understood as parables of righteousness threatened and preserved, but here -as was usual for artists of the Renaissance and Baroque- they are presented in terms of sensuous appeal and erotic charge rather than as moral lessons. Potiphar´s wife, lushly nude except for her jewelry, appears extremely sexually aggressive. Grasping the cloth that exposes the body of Potiphar´s wife, Joseph´s backward motion only serves to exaggerate her advances. The two pictures were part of a decorative cycle that also includes representations, in a similar format, of four other Old Testament subjects: Esther before Ahasuerus (P388), Judith and Holofernes (P389), Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (P394), and the Finding of Moses (P396). The six pictures are united by a shared color scheme; an unusually long, rectangular format; and a rhythm of curving, undulating forms that runs from painting to painting. With their doll-like figures and emphasis on surface pattern, these works are far from typical of Jacopo Tintoretto´s usual style, which is characterized by intense chiaroscuro and high drama, based on heroically idealized depictions of the human body in action. These pictures are in a very different mode, one that is related to their function as furniture painting, intended primarily as decoration. Their long, narrow format; oblique perspective; decorative approach; and multiple panels indicate that they were painted as a set to adorn the upper portion of a room. Nothing is known of the original commission or location, although the ensemble was clearly intended for a secular context. The biblical subject matter provides little more than an occasion for the depiction of exotic costumes, courtly ceremony, and naked flesh. The decorative appeal of the ensemble was not lost on Diego Velazquez, who acquired it for Philip IV (r.1621-65) on his second trip to Venice. Upon its arrival in Spain, the cycle was placed on a ceiling in the so-called Bóvedas de Tiziano (Titian Vaults) in the Alcazar Palace in Madrid, which housed the other nudes in the Spanish Royal Collections. Later, the paintings became part of the collection of Queen Isabel Farnese (r. 1714-46), second wife of Philip V (r. 1700-46), at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, near Segovia. Tintoretto was not widely collected in Spain during his lifetime or in the decades that followed. While he obtained several important commissions from Philip II, his style seems not to have appealed to the royal tastes, and his efforts to take the place of Titian in the king´s favor after the older artist´s death were unsuccessful. Nor were his paintings widely collected by members of the Spanish nobility during this period. The situation changed dramatically in the middle third of the seventeenth century. These were the years in which Velazquez exerted his greatest influence on Spanish collecting, and, as Miguel Falomir has suggested, the change can be attributed primarily to the Spanish painter´s appreciation for his Venetian predecessor (Tintoretto, 159-162). By 1686, the number of paintings by Tintoretto hanging in the Alcazar Palace alone (forty-three) was exceeded only by those of Titian (seventy-six) and Rubens (sixty-two), and was equivalent to that of Velazquez himself (Text drawn from Echols, R.: Splendor, Myth, and Vision. Nudes from the Prado, 2016, pp. 78-79).

Technical data

Inventory number
Tintoretto, Jacopo Robusti
Joseph and the Wife of Putiphar
Ca. 1555
Height: 54 cm; Width: 117 cm
Serie de las historias bíblicas
Royal Collection (Acquired by Velázquez, Venice, 1651; Alcázar Palace, Madrid, Titian Vaults, Alcove of the First Room, 1686; Alcázar Palace, Titian Vaults, Nile Room, 1700, no. 508; Elizabeth of Farnese Collection, Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, Segovia, 1746, no. 1112; La Granja, Casa de Alhajas-otra pieza-pinturas con marco, 1766, no. 1112; La Granja, 1794, no. 1112; La Granja, 1814-1818, no. 1112).

Bibliography +

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Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Alcázar de Madrid, 1701-1703. Núm. [508].
Bobedas del tiçiano [...] 508 / Yttem en el techo del aposentto donde estta el Nilo Ottra Pinttura aobada de Unas ninfas y Vn Vaño de mano de Tinttoretto y en Su Circunferenzia Seis adornos de pintturas de diferenttes fabulas puesttas a la Grazia y adorno de la pinttura prinzipal Con marco negro tasada en Seiscienttos doblones ... 600

Inv. Fernando VII, La Granja, 1814-1818. Núm. 1112.
{20527} 1112 / Quatro pies de largo dos y medio de alto Jose el Casto y la muger de Putifar = Tintoreto

Inv. Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1746. Núm. 1112.
1112-1113-1114-1115 / Quatro, Pinturas en Lienzo, de mano del Ticiano; que representan la 1ª. Jph. que huye de la Muger de Putifano. La 2ª. la Sussana. La 3ª. quando la Hija de Faraon sacò à Moyses del Rio; Y la 4ª. Sisara. Tienen à dos pies, y un dedo de alto; quatro y tres de ancho. Sin Marco ... 4

Inv. Testamentaría Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1766. Núm. 1112.
Casa de Alajas donde estan depositadas algunas cosas [...] Ôtra Pieza siguen las Pinturas [...] Pinturas con marco [...] 1112 / Una pintura con marco liso de quatro pies de largo, y dos y medio de ancho, representa la Muger de Putifar agarrada de la capa de Josèf vale ciento y cincuenta rrs

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, La Granja, 1794. Núm. 1112.
Otra en lienzo de 4 pies de largo por 2 1/2 de alto, marco dorado liso, representa á Josef el cast y la muger de Putifar: en ciento y cincuenta reales. Tintoreto ... 150

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1839.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1887.
Tintoretto. / 1887. El Casto José. / Alto 2 pies, 1 pulg; ancho 1 pie, 7 pulg.

Inv. Testamentaría Fernando VII, Real Museo, Sala Reservada, 1834. Núm. 2.
DOS. La muger de Putifar. Está asiendo de la capa a José que procura escapar / Tintoretto. Escla Venecna / L. / 2160

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 395.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 395.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 422.

Inv. Felipe IV, Alcázar de Madrid, 1686. Núm. s. n..
Bóvedas del Tiziano [...] Bóvedas (que llaman) del Tiziano [...] {888} Y en la Alcoua de la primera pieza de estas Bobedas ay en el techo vna Pintura aobada de vnas nimfas y vn Baño de mano de Tintoreto, y en su circunferençia ay seis adornos de Pintura de diferentes fabulas puestas a la gracia y adorno de la Pintura Prinçipal.

Inscriptions +

Scrap of paper. Stretcher

Inscribed with chalk. Frame, front, right side bar

Fleur-de-lis, used as a collection’s mark belonging to Elisabeth Farnese. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Scrap of paper. Frame, back

B77 (2 veces)
Inscribed with chalk. Stretcher

Tirinnanzi Restauró Fevrero 1856
Inscribed. Front

Los Angeles County Museum Exp. 79913
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

M.N.PRADO / 000395
On metallic tablet. Stretcher

Exhibitions +

Tintoretto 500th Anniversary
07.09.2018 - 06.01.2019

Tintoretto. A Star is born
06.10.2017 - 28.01.2018

Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Williamstown MA
12.06.2016 - 10.10.2016

Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto
24.02.2012 - 10.06.2012

Venezia e l'Egitto
30.09.2011 - 22.01.2012

30.01.2007 - 13.05.2007

Location +

Room 044 (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Update date: 03-09-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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