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Publisher: REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn
Title: Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife.
Published in: Amsterdam, 1634
Size: 3.6 x 4.5 inches.
9.1 x 11.5 cm.

Condition: Etching, on laid paper, without watermark, a good impression of the second, state, trimmed on neatline. Some paper thinning on lower right verso, not affecting imprint.
Condition Rating

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife depicts a story from the Bible, wherein Potiphar's Wife attempts to seduce Joseph. This etching is signed and dated "Rembrandt f. 1634". Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669).

Rembrandt's etching is a dramatic presentation of the moment Potiphar's wife grabs the fleeing Joseph.
Considered "unprecedented in its erotic candor", it shows Joseph averting his eyes from the frankly depicted nude lower body of his master's wife.
Only an etching of 1600 by Antonio Tempesta had portrayed a comparable sexual aggressiveness.

Despite compositional similarities to the Tempesta, Rembrandt's depiction of human emotions—Joseph's revulsion and the desperation of Potiphar's wife—is unique to him, and the work is more blunt in its suggestion of the woman's physical appetite.

As in his 1638 etching of Adam and Eve, the explicit depiction of the female's vulva is unusual, and emphasizes the seductress's lasciviousness; a persistent notion from antiquity to 17th century Holland was that a woman's genitals hungered insatiably for the male's seed.

Of some 300 etchings that Rembrandt produced, Joseph and Potiphar's Wife was one of only four or five that may be classified as erotica; these prints were not widely disseminated during his life.
A context for Rembrandt's unidealized interpretation of the nude was proposed by Kenneth Clark, who noted that the artist's female figures from the early 1630s marked a break with the abundant exuberance of his contemporary, Peter Paul Rubens, and were at stark contrast with the classicism of the conventional nude.

Rembrandt's etchings offered a "defiant truthfulness", as well as a sense of pity for physical imperfections, the fat and wrinkles of the human body.

Rembrandt may have intended moral implications in the dramatic use of light and shadow, with Joseph seen radiantly illuminated on the left side of the print and Potiphar's wife surrounded by the darkness of her bedchamber on the right.

The rich tonal quality Rembrandt achieved in early etchings like Joseph and Potiphar's Wife was produced by his building dark areas with multiple overlays of hatched lines, gained through repeated work on successive states of the print.
The original printing plate survives in a private collection.
Reference: Bartsch 39, H. 118. Sluijter, E., Rembrandt and the Female Nude, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006)

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REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn - Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife.

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$ 4,500
Approx. Euro 3,825  

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$ 4,500
Approx. Euro 3,825