Joseph and Potiphar
(Domenico Piola)


Genoa 1627-1703

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

Oil on canvas
159 x 317 cm.

The subject comes from Genesis 39:7-20 which relates that Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard, bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites and made him steward of his household. Potiphar’s wife ‘cast her eyes over him and said “Come and lie with me”’. Joseph refused her though she continued to press him. One day when they were alone together she clutched his robes and pleaded with him to make love to her. Joseph fled so precipitately from her that he left his cloak in her hands, and when her husband returned she avenged her humiliation by accusing Joseph of trying to violate her, using his cloak as evidence. Joseph was promptly thrown into prison.

At an early age, Domenico was influenced by his brother, Pellegro’s work, before joining the studio of Capellino and Fiasella. He quickly fell under the influence of the greatest Genovese painters of the age, namely Castiglione and Valerio Castello. Only twenty years old he is recorded as executing numerous altarpieces for Genoa and churches in other Ligurian towns, such as Savona and Pieve di Teco. After Valerio Castello’s death in 1559, Domenico, together with Gregorio de Ferrari, became the undisputed masters of Genovese ‘barocchetto’ style, a lightened form of the Roman Baroque which was later to culminate in the Rococo art of Turin and Piedmont after 1700. Our painting, of Joseph Fleeing the Advances of Potiphar’s Wife, represents on of the finest works ever executed by Domenico in this ‘barocchetto’ style. The influence of Rubens, who had arrived in Genoa in 1607, as well as of Van Dyck, is evident but merged with the sensual colourism of these northerners are quotations from Parmese artists such as Correggio and Parmigianino, particularly in the elegant elongation of the forms.

The Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife was almost certainly executed between 1685 and 1690, a period when the artist produced his finest works and was busy on a project to fresco the celebrated Palazzo Rosso in Via Garibaldi in Genoa. The artist executed several other oils on this scale, probably for the Doria; these latter works were formerly in the Villa Imperiale in San Fruttuoso, but their present whereabouts are unknown.

Oil on canvas

LITERATURE: Scritti in onore di Giuliano Briganti, ‘Un dipinto inedito del Piola’ by Pietro Torriti

Where is It?
Acquired from the Matthiesen Gallery by a private collector
Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Religious: Old Testament
Italian - Genoese
Price band
Sold or not available