Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (1617 - 1682)
- Joseph and his Brethren
- c. 1670
- Oil on canvas
- Image size: 151.9 x 225.6 cm
Object size: 174 x 247 x 10 cm
- Signature: 'B,us Murillo,f.' 'us' in small superscript letters after B
- Great Gallery
- The subject of this painting sets it apart from the other Murillos in the Wallace Collection, both as a scene from the Old Testament and as a depiction of strong emotions. According to the Book of Genesis, Joseph was the favourite son of his father Jacob and much envied by his elder brothers. When he appeared to his brothers wearing a new coat of many colours given to him by his father, they resolved to kill him. Murillo depicts the moment when Joseph’s brother Reuben persuaded the others to mitigate the
crime by abandoning the boy in an empty well.
The Genoese merchant Giovanni Bielato brought this painting, along with
a number of other works by Murillo, including the Wallace Collection’s The
Adoration of the Shepherds and St Thomas of Villanueva, to his native city in c.1670. After his death they passed to the Capuchin Order in the city, from whom they were subsequently acquired in the nineteenth century by a British dealer.
Due to the unsettling subject, the 4th Marquess of Hertford was at first
unsure whether to purchase it, writing to his agent Samuel Mawson ‘I only like pleasing pictures & the subject of the one in question may not be quite to my taste’. However, Mawson’s enthusiasm seems to have won him over, as it was bought for 1,680 guineas in 1854.