Potiphar's Wife Displays Joseph's Garment

Lucas van Leydencirca 1512

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Rotterdam, Netherlands

The Old Testament story of Joseph was a popular subject in art. Lucas van Leyden depicted it on several occasions, mostly in engravings, but also in this small panel. After his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he became the servant of the courtier Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife was infatuated with him and repeatedly tried to seduce him. On one of those occasions, although Joseph fled, his admirer managed to keep one of his garments. Angered by Joseph’s rebuff, she told her husband that his servant had raped her, and produced his cloak in evidence. This is the scene illustrated in Lucas van Leyden’s painting: Potiphar’s wife makes the false allegation.

The tale of Potiphar’s wife was one of several biblical and mythological stories about women conniving to bring about a man’s downfall, which gained popularity in the sixteenth century. People were warned about women’s cunning, especially in love. The decorative sculptures convey that idea. One of the reliefs shows Eve, the archetypal seductress, who persuaded Adam to eat the forbidden apple and so brought sin into the world.


  • Title: Potiphar's Wife Displays Joseph's Garment
  • Creator Lifespan: 1489/1494 - 1533
  • Creator Nationality: Dutch
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Leiden, the Netherlands
  • Creator Birth Place: Leiden, the Netherlands
  • Date Created: circa 1512
  • Theme: Christianity-Old Testament
  • Physical Dimensions: w360 x h260 cm (Without frame)
  • Painter: Lucas van Leyden
  • Original Title: De vrouw van Potifar toont het kleed van Jozef
  • Artist Information: Lucas van Leyden produced and sold engravings when he was only nine years old. He studied painting with his father, Hugo Jacobsz and with his fellow city-dweller Cornelis Engelbrechtsz. His period in Leiden is documented from 1514 to 1529. In 1521 he was in Antwerp, when he met Albrecht Dürer. Probably he is 'Lucas de Hollander' who was registered as a master in Antwerp in 1522. He visited Gossaert in Middelburg and travelled with him through Flanders in 1522 or 1527. In 1526, he painted a large altar piece showing a depiction of 'The Last Judgement'; it was commissioned by the Leiden family Van Swieten and now hangs in the De Lakenhal Museum. Lucas van Leyden was active as painter, engraver and designer of woodcuts and stained glass. His graphical work is extensive and shows influences of Dürer and Marcantonio Raimondi.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Acquired with the collection of: D.G. van Beuningen 1958, http://collectie.boijmans.nl/en/disclaimer/
  • External Link: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  • Medium: Oil on panel

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