Joseph in Prison Interpreting the Dreams of

From a large family, Joseph was his father Jacob's favorite son. Joseph had the gift of prophecy and the skill to interpret dreams, and was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He became a servant in the house of an Egyptian official and prospered for a time, until he was falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned. In this pen and ink drawing, Joseph is depicted in prison with his fellow inmates, the Pharaoh's baker and butler, both of whom had offended their royal master. While in custody, each had an unsettling dream and turned to Joseph for interpretation. Joseph sits on the far right addressing the butler and baker emphatically with one arm outstretched toward the viewer as he explains the dreams. The figure on the left is likely the baker and sits and listens impassively, while the figure on the right is probably the baker who listens attentively with his head resting in his hand. The butler will hear from Joseph that his dream portends his release. The baker, on the other hand, will learn of his execution by hanging in three days time. Joseph himself will languish in prison for another two years, until Pharaoh experiences a disturbing dream and his butler remembers Joseph's prophetic gifts.

Pen and brown ink, traces of black chalk (about 1639)

by Govaert Flinck (Dutch, 1615-1660)

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