Ivanov Alexander Andreevich (1806 - 1858)
Joseph Interprets the Butler's and the Baker's Dreams in a Prison
Oil on canvas, 1827
178.5 x 213 cm
The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel, his father’s favorite. He had the gift to interpret dreams. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery, thus he found himself in Egypt.
The first owner of Joseph in Egypt was Potiphar, the commander of the royal guards. Joseph quickly gained his high esteem and trust; Potiphar made him overseer of the household. Potiphar’s wife fell in love with Joseph and tried to seduce him. Joseph, feeling great respect for his master, refused her. To take revenge on Joseph, she called for the servants and accused him of having raped her. Potiphar had Joseph put into the royal prison.
There Joseph helped to interpret dreams and, thanks to this gift and other talents, he first became free and then became the Pharaoh’s first adviser. After coming into power he had the opportunity to save his father, brothers and their family starvation; they all came into Egypt and settled there with the Pharaoh’s permission.
When Jacob was dying, he summoned his grandsons by Joseph and his Egyptian wife Asenath, Ephraim and Manasseh, for blessing. Rather than blessing the eldest son, the dark Manasseh, with his right hand, Jacob gave his first blessing to the younger, the fair-haired Ephraim. Joseph thought that his father had made a mistake but Jacob replied ‘I know it, my son, I know it; he also shall become a prophet, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.’
The story of Joseph is recorded in Genesis (30:22-24; 37; 39-50). There is also a wonderful novel Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann.