Joseph and Potiphar's Wife

Artist: Balthasar Griessmann (Wasserburg 1620–1706 Salzburg) , or his circle

Date: second half 17th century

Culture: Austrian

Medium: Ivory

Dimensions: Overall: 3 11/16 × 6 7/8 in. (9.4 × 17.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture-Miniature

Credit Line: Purchase, Alexis Gregory Gift, 1997

Accession Number: 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.