Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Enraged with jealousy, Jacob’s sons strip their younger brother, Joseph, of his ornamental robe and throw him into a well. This plaque of enamel set in gilded copper is one of a series completed in 1181 by Nicholas of Verdun to ornament the pulpit of the Klosterneuburg Abbey, near Vienna.

The brothers later rescue Joseph, only to sell him into slavery. They then stain his robe with the blood of a young goat and return home to present their father with this false evidence of Joseph’s death. The account of Joseph’s betrayal and eventual reunion with his brothers, which makes up the better portion of Genesis, suggests that the brothers’ hatred was inspired both by the favoritism Jacob showed for Joseph (the son of his beloved wife Rachel), as well as Joseph’s own confidence—evident in his dreams—that he would come to rule over his older siblings

The closest biblical parallel is the lengthy and violent succession narrative of David’s sons. Here, too, the father shows favoritism and fails to end the infighting among his fiercely competitive sons.