Joseph in Prison Interpreting the Dreams of Pharoah's Baker and Butler (Main View)


The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

While imprisoned, Joseph, shown here standing to the left, interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh's butler and baker, also thrown into jail for offending their master. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn conveyed the moment when the baker, in a flat cap, discovers that Pharaoh will have him hanged in three days. The butler, who learns that he will be restored to his position, leans forward, hands clasped, listening intently. Joseph's predictions for these two came true, and his interpretation of Pharaoh's dream saved all of Egypt two years later.

As with most of his compositional studies of religious subjects, Rembrandt probably made this drawing not as a preparatory study for a project but for its own sake. His working methods were highly experimental; he himself may have joined together the two sheets of paper that comprise this drawing. On one sheet he developed detailed studies of the butler and baker; on the other he captured Joseph with the fewest pen marks possible. Rembrandt used iron-gall ink, originally black but now faded to brown.


  • Title: Joseph in Prison Interpreting the Dreams of Pharoah's Baker and Butler (Main View)
  • Creator: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
  • Date Created: about 1639
  • Physical Dimensions: 20 × 18.7 cm (7 7/8 × 7 3/8 in.)
  • Type: Drawing
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Pen and brown ink on light brown prepared paper; Joseph is on a separate, irregularly cut sheet
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 95.GA.18
  • Culture: Dutch
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 - 1669)
  • Classification: Drawings (Visual Works)

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