Artwork of the Week: July 4, 2022

 In MOA Artwork of the Week

Joseph Reveals his Dream to His Brethren, Artist: Tissot, Photographer: John Parnell, Photo © The Jewish Museum, New York

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), Joseph Reveals his Dream to his Brethren, c. 1896-1901, gouache on board, 8 7/8 x 12 4/9 in, The Jewish Museum, New York. Image provided by the Jewish Museum, New York. Gift of the heirs of Jacob Schiff. This work has been temporarily loaned to the Museum as part of the exhibition Prophets, Priests, and Queens: James Tissot’s Men and Women of the Old Testament. 

As Rachel’s firstborn son, Joseph was beloved by Jacob, was beloved by Jacob, especially after Rachel’s early death. Jacob famously gifted Joseph a special tunic, which may have implied that Joseph would receive his father’s birthright blessing. His privileged treatment elicited envy and resentment among the older brothers – a jealousy that grew when Joseph began sharing his prophetic dreams.
Tissot envisions Joseph younger than his seventeen years, as recorded in the Bible. As Jacob’s sons rest from their work, Joseph recounts a dreams in which hjis family, including his elder brothers, reverence him. The siblings listen with a mix of inattention and annoyance. Interestingly, Tissot depicts Joseph’s distinctive tunic as animal fur rather than the “coat of many colors” described in the text (Gen. 37:3). Tissot may have been referencing Joseph’s designation as a prefiguration of Jesus Christ; here, characterizing the young Joseph as a scapegoat, a metaphor for Christ’s redemption that Tissot illustrated previously in his The Life of Christ series.

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