barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657)

Joseph Distributing Corn in Egypt

Amsterdam, 1655

Oil on canvas

110.5 x 90 cm


Joseph, at the top right, oversees the sale of corn during a time of famine. 

According to the Old Testament, Joseph had stored the fruits of seven bountiful years and the people of Egypt, watched by the Pharoah, to the upper left, benefit from his foresight. Amongst the figures who buy corn, barter their goods and give charity are Joseph’s brothers (behind the camel).  They once sold him into slavery and now seek his aid. The Egyptian setting is established by the obelisk, but Breenbergh also includes Roman buildings which the Dutchman knew from his Italian journey (1619-29).


Purchased 1963 (No.63.1)

The Circle of Rogier van der Weyden (about 1399/1400 – 1464)

The Deposition (centre); Adam and Eve Mourning Abel (left); Joseph’s Coat Shown to Jacob and Rachel (right)