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Joseph in Prison Interpreting Dreams

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1667 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraving in ink on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case 93, shelf E, box 111

Like his contemporary, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden was internationally recognised within his lifetime and beyond. Giorgio Vasari, writing in 1568, praised Leyden's fine engraving style and his use of perspective. Fine quality early impressions of his prints are rare. Copper printing plates are capable of producing only one or two hundred fine impressions before the plate starts to wear down, especially with a fine line engraving style as Leyden's. Such was Leyden's reputation and his prints so sought by collectors that his original printing plates were kept and impressions taken from them long after his death, resulting in a larger number of surviving poor and worn impressions than fine ones. Numerous copies were also made from his originals, which satisfied demand when originals were not available or affordable and for collectors of images interested more in subject matter.

Physical description

Engraving showing an interior with columns and an arched niche. On the floor Joseph sits in the centre, and on either side is another prisoner, both with chains attaching one of their ankles to large square stone. Each man has an image close to their heads, which represent dreams. The left-hand dream shows a man carrying bread in a basket on his head, which is being pecked at by a bird. The right-hand dream shows a man pouring liquid into a bowl from a pitcher. Both men are listening to Joseph. The man on the left is well-dressed in short tunic, trousers and cloth boots and wears a hat with feathers. The man on the right has a blanket around him and a simple hat with turn up at the back. Joseph wears a long tunic and hat with feather. This version is a copy in reverse.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (probably, made)


ca. 1667 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Engraving in ink on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed on plate, lower centre


Height: 12.5 cm plate size, Width: 16.4 cm plate size, Height: 14.1 cm, Width: 17.5 cm, Height: 33 cm mounted sideways on into volume, page size (when horizontal), Width: 52 cm mounted sideways on into volume, page size (when horizontal)

Descriptive line

Engraving, Joseph in Prison Interpreting Dreams, from a series of five prints entitled The Story of Joseph, copy after Lucas Hugensz van Leyden (called Lucas Jacobsz) in reverse; possibly 1667.

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

Bartsch, Adam von. Le Peintre Graveur. Leipzig, J.A. Barth, 1854-1876.
The New Hollstein: Dutch & Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts, 1450-1700. Roosendaal. Koninklijke Van Poll in cooperation with the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1993-
Cornelis, Bart and Jan Piet Filedt Kok. The taste for Lucas van Leyden prints. In: Simiolus - Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art. 26: 1/2 (1998).

Production Note

1667 date comes from similarity to another print E.767-1885


Printing ink



Subjects depicted

Men; Costume; Bread; Pitcher; Basket; Bowls (vessels); Hats; Interior; Columns (architectural elements); Niche; Dreams; Birds; Chains


Christianity; Prints; Images Online; Illustration

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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