Filippo Falciatore (Italian, active 1737-1768)
Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, n.d.
Oil on copper 10 1/4 in. x 15 1/16 in. (26 cm x 38.2 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection1872.648
Best known for scenes of outdoor entertainment, Filippo Falciatore also created altarpieces for a large number of convents and churches in and near Naples during his active years in the middle of the 18th century. The fact that most of his religious paintings are in situ, aside from a few paintings in small format like this Old Testament scene on copper, has created a distorted view of his output. A student of the Neapolitan painter Paolo De Matteis, Falciatore left few traces of his early years. Consistently elegant in form and color, his subjects ranged from religious frescoes to scenes of daily life. After the height of his career in the 1740s, his florid Rococo style gave way to a more sober classical mode.
This painting depicts one of the dramatic turns in personal fortune experienced by the young shepherd Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Joseph faithfully served in the house of Potiphar, a captain of the Egyptian guard. The handsome Joseph soon became the object of desire for Potiphar’s wife. Here, Joseph flees Potiphar’s house, refusing the wife’s sexual advances despite her beauty. In making his escape, he loses his cloak to her grasp. Scorned, Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of seduction, the cloak serving as her evidence, and Joseph is thrown in prison by a master who believes himself betrayed. Though the moral lesson of seduction and treachery is a serious one, it provides the opportunity for Falciatore to exploit its sensual possibilities.