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Manuscript - Joseph and Potiphar's wife

Joseph and Potiphar's wife

  • Object:

    Manuscript

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (probably, illumination)

  • Date:

    ca. 1900 (illumination)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Spanish Forger (illuminator)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Body colour with gilt enrichments

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2008

  • Museum number:

    E.531-2008

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case MOD, shelf B, box 1

The Spanish Forger was a skillful and prolific forger, who capitalised on the fashion for collecting medieval panel paintings and illuminated manuscripts, which was widespread in Europe and the United States between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. His distinctive repertory of sweet faced figures set against a background of steep hills and castles derived from the study of illustrated books on the Middle Ages. His work was exposed as that of a forger in the 1930s, on the basis of a panel formerly attributed to the fifteenth century Spanish painter Jorge Inglés. This association provided the name of convenience by which he is still known, although it is generally believed that he was active in Paris in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

This is one of a group of five or six miniatures of similar size and borders, painted on the back of cuttings from a text page of an Italian choir book of fifteenth or sixteenth century date. It depicts Joseph and Potiphar’s wife; a biblical subject taken from the Genesis (39-2). Joseph is shown kneeling in the centre, while two figures behind take off his cloak. He gestures to the figure of Potiphar’s wife who sits on a throne to the left. This grouping is unlike other depictions of the subject, which show Joseph alone with Portiphar’s wife in a bedroom while she removes his cloak and tries to seduce him. The costume of the figures is reminiscent of Franco-Flemish manuscripts from about 1400. However the combination of figures in graceful poses to create a scene that does not follow its previous iconography is a principal reason why the works of the Spanish Forger are readily identifiable as fakes.

Physical description

Manuscript

Place of Origin

Paris (probably, illumination)

Date

ca. 1900 (illumination)

Artist/maker

Spanish Forger (illuminator)

Materials and Techniques

Body colour with gilt enrichments

Dimensions

Height: 20.5 cm painting, Width: 14.5 cm painting

Descriptive line

'Joseph and Potiphar's Wife': illuminated manuscript leaf by 'The Spanish Forger', ca. 1900.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Voelkle, William. The Spanish Forger, exhibition catalogue, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1978. ISBN 875980546, catalogue number L.66, p.57, plate 185, notes that this is one of a set of five, possibly six manuscripts (catalogue numbers L.66-69 and L.10).
MLA Acceptance in Lieu Report 2007/2008, p.20, notes that the manuscript is titled "Susannah and the Elders".
L. Burgio, R.J.H. Clark and R.R. Hark.“Spectroscopic investigation of modern pigments on purportedly medieval miniatures by the ‘Spanish Forger’”, in Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, vol 40, pp. 2031-2036, 2009.

Materials

Parchment; Body colour; Gold metallic pigment

Techniques

Illumination

Categories

Manuscripts

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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