My uncle Joseph, who died last November, loved art and bought from both my mother and myself. This one was a commission, to honor his Biblical namesake, the Hebrew Joseph. Bible readers will remember that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and brought to Egypt. As an adult, Joseph rises into high social circles and is successful in life until he is brought down by a scandalous woman, the wife of his boss. He is thrown into prison for attempted rape but while in prison he distinguishes himself as an interpreter of dreams. His reputation attracts the attention of the Pharaoh, who has Joseph interpret his famous dream of seven fat well-fed cows followed by seven starving cows, and seven ripe good ears of grain followed by seven stunted, withered ears of grain. Joseph interprets this as a portent of seven good weather years to be followed by seven years of drought and want.
My uncle commissioned me to portray the Jewish hero Joseph brought before the Egyptian ruler, declaiming his interpretation of Pharaoh's dream. I depicted the animals and grains as symbols floating in dreamspace, done in a style borrowed from ancient Egyptian wall paintings.
In the Biblical days and even up into modern times, dreams were thought to carry real information about the world and what was to come. Nowadays, the belief in dreams as accurate messages or prophecies has mostly faded away, remaining only among religious enthusiasts.
"Joseph and Pharaoh" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 10" x 14", fall 1977. This photograph was taken of the art when it was already in its frame and has been rescued from fading and poor imaging, by heroic Photoshop. Click on the pic for a somewhat larger view.