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Painting of woman on bed holding onto man’s cloak

In a room hung with thick, draped, slightly shiny, gold-edged maroon curtains, a light-skinned woman sits on a bed with white sheets. She has red hair and wears a loose, white, wide-necked chemise pulled far over her right shoulder, exposing her right breast. The chemise is also drawn up above her right thigh. Her left sleeve bunches over her arm, which grips the dark green overcoat of a light-skinned, red-haired man on the left. He pulls the coat from the other side, leaning away from the woman.

Gallery Text

Paolo Finoglia trained in Naples, where he fell under the influence of Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, a prominent artist working in the manner of Caravaggio. In this painting, Finoglia adopts the master’s dramatic use of light and shadow to highlight the intensity of the biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. After being sold into slavery, Joseph worked in the home of Potiphar, a high-ranking Egyptian officer. When he rebuffed the advances of Potiphar’s wife, she caught hold of his cloak and refused to relinquish it. She then used it to accuse Joseph of inappropriate actions toward her, which resulted in his imprisonment. Finoglia marks this struggle by rendering the figures’ faces and clothing in sharply contrasting tones. This large canvas reveals Finoglia’s great skill at depicting cloth and drapery, which is, after all, the subject of the painting.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Paolo Finoglia, Italian (c. 1590 - 1645)
Previously attributed to Artemesia Gentileschi, Italian (Rome 1593 - 1651/1653 Naples)
Joseph and Potiphar's Wife
Work Type
c. 1640
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2210, West Arcade
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
sight: 232.7 x 193.7 cm (91 5/8 x 76 1/4 in.)
frame: 261.6 x 223.5 x 9.5 cm (103 x 88 x 3 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Robert Brothers, New York], sold; to The Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1950, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1962

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Samuel H. Kress Foundation
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Mina Gregori, 70 Pitture e sculture del '600 e '700 Fiorentino, exh. cat., Officine Grafiche Vallecchi Firenze (Florence, 1965), p. 9
  • Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Italian Schools XVI-XVIII Century, Phaidon Press (London, 1966), pp. 84-85, repr. as fig. 152
  • Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 80 [as by Artemesia Gentileschi]
  • Sydney J. Freedberg, "Lorenzo Lotto to Nicolas Poussin", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 389-397, p. 394-395, repr. p. 394 as fig. 11
  • Benedict Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement: Lists of Pictures by Caravaggio and his Followers through Europe from 1590 to 1650, Phaidon (Oxford, 1979), pp. 110, 225
  • Prof. Nicola Spinosa, La pittura napolentana del '600, Longanesi & Co. (Milan, 1984), repr. as pl. 351
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 181, p. 159, repr.
  • Mary D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art, Princeton University Press (Princeton, New Jersey, 1989), pp. 80, 506, no. 72, repr. p. 80 and pl. II
  • Martina Corgnati, Artemisia: The Original Woman Warrior, The Journal of Art (December 1989), Vol. 2, No. 3, p. 29
  • Benedict Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, Umberto Allemandi & C. (Turin, 1990), vol. 1, pp. 212, 220
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 49, color plate; pp. 107, 344, repr. b/w cat. no. 724
  • Roberto Contini and Gianni Papi, Artemisia, exh. cat., Leonardo-De Luca Editori (Rome, 1991), pp. 70, 72, repr. p. 72 as fig. 57
  • Ferdinando Bologna, Battistello Caracciolo e il primo naturalismo a Napoli, exh. cat., Electa Napoli (Naples, 1991), pp. 291-292, cat. no. 2.47, repr. p. 292
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer, The Art of Arousal, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1993), p. 69, repr.
  • Important Old Master Paintings, auct. cat., Sotheby's, New York (New York, May 19, 1994), mentioned under lot 351
  • Ronald L. Ecker, And Adam Knew Eve: A Dictionary of Sex in the Bible, Hodge and Broddock (Palatka, FL, 1995), repr. in b/w as fig. 6
  • R. Ward Bissell, Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art: Critical Reading and Catalogue Raisonné, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA, 1999), no. X-11, pp. 121, 316-317; repr. as fig. 214
  • Paolo Finoglio e sil suo tempo: un pittore napoletano alla corte degli Acquiviva, exh. cat., Electa Napoli (Naples, Italy, 2000), pp. 153-154, repr. in color as fig. 21, p. 104
  • Keith Christiansen and Judith Mann, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 2001), pp. 384, 386, repr. in b/w as fig. 135
  • Marina Wallace, Martin Kemp, and Joanne Bernstein, Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now, Merrell Publishers Ltd. (London, 2007), p. 54 and 245, repr. in color p. 54
  • Matthias Waschek, Marjorie B. Cohn, Judith Mann, and Stephan Wolohojian, Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, exh. cat., Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, 2008), pp. 11, 42
  • Francesca Baldassari, Artemisia Gentileschi e il suo tempo, exh. cat., Skira Editore (Milan, 2016), p. 60, repr. as fig. 4
  • Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal Parsons, Finoglio’s Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife at Harvard: Biblical Reception Meets Art Historical Methodology, Seeking Wisdom’s Depths and Torah’s Heights: Essays in Honor of Samuel E. Balentine, Smyth & Helwys Publishings (Macon, GA, 2020), pp. 127-151, repr. as fig. 5.1 on p. 128

Exhibition History

  • Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977
  • Battistello Caracciolo e il Primo Naturalismo a Napoli, Palazzo di Capodimonte, 10/19/1991 - 01/05/1992
  • Ideal [Dis-] Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 10/24/2008 - 10/03/2009
  • 32Q: 2210 West Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

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