Etching of Joseph

Step 2 of 6

Allegorical Joseph

The ox stares wearily into the distance but trots steadily forward, towards the reversal of Joseph’s fortune and the happy ending of the story.

The Latin verses at the bottom inform the reader of the symbolic image: the ox stands for Joseph’s patience in the face of adversity. The two women walking behind the ox personify the two causes of his adversity. The first is the wife of Potiphar, who tries to seduce Joseph and accuses him of attempted rape when he does not give in to her. As a result of this accusation, Joseph spends years in an Egyptian prison, until he is summoned by the Pharaoh to interpret obscure dreams and ends up as the Pharaoh’s second-in-command. The second female figure is the personification of Jealousy, pictured as an old and bitter woman. She stands for the envy and mistreatment that Joseph had to endure from his brothers.

Both women are being led as captives in Joseph’s triumphal march. They represent the challenges that Joseph overcomes with his patience.