Resentful of their father’s favouritism for Joseph, his brothers sold him into slavery. They kept his many-coloured coat which his father had made for him, smeared it with kid’s blood and showed the coat to their father Jacob to convince him that his son had been killed by a wild beast. The composition was first drawn in 1863 for an illustrated Bible. The story comes from the Book of Genesis: a quotation is given on the upper part of the frame. Brown shows the deceitful characters of the brothers, the despair of Jacob and the suspicion felt by his youngest son Benjamin.


  • Title: The Coat of Many Colours
  • Creator: Ford Madox Brown
  • Date Created: 1864/1866
  • tag / style: Pre-Raphaelite; Ford Madox Brown; Middle Eastern; costumes; Assyrian; Egyptian; coat of many colours; coat; dog; Joseph; beard; hat; necklace; barefoot; man; figs; basket; musical instrument; fan; flowers; crook; sandals; skin; landscape; fig tree; ladder; water bottle; Jacob; Bible; biblical; Benjamin
  • Physical Dimensions: w1032 x h1075 cm (Without frame.)
  • Artist biographical information: Ford Madox Brown sympathised closely with the new Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood formed in 1848, which paralleled his own ideas, though he was never a member. At first an adviser, at least to Rossetti (to whom he provided painting lessons), in turn he was influenced by them. While at first well received, his work gained little public recognition in the 1850s and the influential Ruskin was antagonistic. In 1853 he married Emma Hill who appears in his two greatest paintings ‘The Last of England’, now in Birmingham Art Gallery, and ‘Work’, now in Manchester Art Gallery. In 1861 he was a founder-member of the decorating firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company, for which he designed some furniture and many stained-glass cartoons, until its re-arrangement as Morris and Co. in 1875. These were influential on his later manner which saw a return to his earlier historical approach combined with a looser, more decorative style.
  • Additonal artwork information: The Pre-Raphaelites were pioneers - at least in England - in giving Biblical pictures an authentic Middle Eastern flavour in facial types, costume and landscape. Brown had never visited the Middle East so he copied the landscape from a watercolour painted near Jerusalem by the artist Thomas Seddon, and took the costumes from illustrations of Assyrian and Egyptian examples.
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Presented by Eleanor Coltart in 1904

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