Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, second half of 17th century
By or close to Balthasar Griessmann (Austrian, 1620–1706)
Ivory; 3 11/16 x 6 7/8 in. (9.4 x 17.5 cm)
Purchase, Alexis Gregory Gift, 1997 (1997.91)
In Genesis 39, Joseph resists the advances of his master Potiphar's wife. The Old Testament story reverses the dynamic of familiar rape scenes while retaining the titillating contrast between a nude woman and a clothed male. Here, the figure's movements are confidently handled—the flying folds of his cloak and the strands of streaming hair emphasize Joseph's panicky retreat. Detail is focused less on the anatomical minutiae of the woman's sensuous body than on rendering her luxurious bedroom fittings and elaborate coiffure.