Musée National Message Biblique

“Joseph Is Recognized by His Brothers” by Marc Chagall. Genesis 37–50 recounts the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, who as a young goatherd was sold into slavery by his brothers. Years later, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain during a famine. Unbeknown to them, Joseph has survived his slavery to become the governor of Egypt, “second only to Pharaoh himself.” Unrecognized by his brothers, Joseph nevertheless sells them grain.

In this scene depicting Genesis 45:4–15, Joseph has just revealed his identity to his brothers, announcing, “I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt.” Frightened and remorseful, Joseph’s brothers look on as he and his brother Benjamin tearfully embrace. The Bible records that Joseph, sensing his brothers’ fear, reassured them saying, “… do not be distressed or take it amiss that you sold me into slavery here; it was God who sent me ahead of you to save men’s lives.”

This tender and moving painting is one of a series of gouaches and engravings by Chagall that followed his visit to Palestine between February and April 1931. The visit, Chagall afterward recounted, made the Bible come to life for him; before the trip, he later said, “I couldn’t see the Bible, I could only dream it.”