The wall paintings in the Casa Bartholdy were the first opportunity that the artists, initially mocked as “Nazarenes,” had to work as they wanted in accordance with their own concept of art. Creating frescos in the style of the old Italian masters, depicting scenes from the Old Testament, and working as a group: all these elements were eminently compatible with the artistic and ethical ideals of the Nazarenes. The Prussian Consul General in Italy, Jakob Salomon Bartholdy, had put the banqueting room in his private residence at their disposal and provided them with paint and food so that the young artists, whose ideals he was familiar with, could rediscover the almost lost technique of fresco painting and realize their dream of a new form of art: monumental, jointly-created wall paintings. The individual scenes of the fresco, important moments in the story of Joseph, are independent of each other, differing both in the light and in the scale of the figures. Peter Cornelius: “This work makes me the happiest of people, and even if I only had one crust of bread left, I would not change it ... In my breast there beats a sure, prophetic feeling that art will break through from here to a new, beautiful existence.” The two frescos by Cornelius are the finest of the series. Overbeck’s work is less dramatic, although the theme of his picture is of central significance in that it shows the selling of Joseph by his jealous brothers, and thus explains subsequent events. Bartholdy had the artists make sketches of the finished frescos so that he could convince the Prussian king of the skill of the young painters in Rome. Anyone who was interested was welcome to come to see the frescos in his residence. Endangered from 1825 onwards, in 1885, after many trial runs, they were sawn out together with the walls, detached from the masonry behind and re-attached to a wooden framework. In 1887 they were moved from Rome to Berlin where a room was set aside for them on the upper floor of the Nationalgalerie.


  • Title: The Selling of Joseph
  • Creator: Friedrich Overbeck
  • Date Created: 1816 - 1817
  • Physical Dimensions: w304.0 x h243.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Fresco, repainted with Tempera
  • Inv.-No.: A I 419 (01)
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Andres Kilger
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Friedrich Overbeck was a German painter. From 1804 to 1806 he received drawing lessons from Joseph Nicolaus Preoux. He was accepted to the academy of Vienna but left after four years due to his discontent over the classicism expounded there. He went to Rome with Fran Pforr and Ludwig Vogel, where he became a member of the Nazarene Brotherhood, a Romantic movement that sought to revive piety in German art in the manner of Raphel, among others. Overbeck himself lived in a monastic confraternity and rejected several offers for professorships at different academies of art. Nazarene artworks are characterized by their studied composition using light, shade and colour. One of his biggest commissions was the decoration of the Casa Bartholdy (1818) with frescoes depicting scenes of Joseph and his brethren, executed in collaboration with Cornelius, Veit and Schadow.
  • Artist Place of Death: Rome, Italy
  • Artist Place of Birth: Lübeck, Germany
  • Artist Dates: 1789-07-04/1869-11-12

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