The Bible describes how Joseph's jealous brothers, having sold him into slavery, 'took Joseph's coat and killed a kid of the goats and dipped the coat in the blood' before bringing it to their father and claiming that he had been killed by a wild animal. In his 1865 catalogue Brown describes the brothers individually: 'the cruel Simeon stands in the immediate foreground half out of the picture, he looks at his father guiltily and already prepared to bluster ... . The leonine Judah just behind him, stands silently watching the effect of Levi's falsity and jeering levity on their father; Issacher the fool sucks the head of his shepherd's crook, and wonders at his father's despair' (The Exhibition of Work and other Paintings, 1865). The only figure in the scene able to detect their deceit is the dog sniffing the blood, which he 'recognises as not belonging to man.'Although Dalziels' Bible Gallery was brought out in 1881 Brown's designs were made in the early 1860s and show the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite movement on Brown's illustrations. Like all three of Brown's illustrations for the Bible Gallery, Joseph's Coat shows figures claustrophobically compressed within a small space which is stuffed with minute details. In order to remain as realistic as possible Brown used a landscape from the Holy Land for the background. Although he had not travelled to the Middle East himself, he copied a watercolour study of the hills above Jerusalem, entitled The Well of Enrogel (Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston), painted by his friend Thomas Seddon in the summer of 1855. The competitiveness between artists in the Pre-Raphaelite circle can be seen from Holman Hunt's reaction to the design when he first saw it as a painting in progress. Hunt who had travelled with Seddon and no doubt felt he had superior knowledge of the Near East, 'carped at the introduction of the dog, the touch of which might be considered a defilement' however, he later retracted his statement in a letter, citing other biblical sources and remembering that he had himself seen the dogs allowed to exercise their natural instincts as watchdogs' (Mary Bennett in The Pre-Raphaelites, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1984, p. 207).LM

  • Presented by Charles Fairfax Murray, 1912.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist Ford Madox Brown -
Engraver - Dalziel Brothers


Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
Signature - Engraved - FMB in mongram.. Ink.


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
Exhibition of the Works of Ford Madox Brown
177 (?) Grafton Galleries, London 1897 - 1897
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
54 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 2008-08-27 - 2008-12-14


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
Dalziel's Bible Gallery
Dalziel Brothers 1881 Dalziel Brothers, London repr. pl. 17
Art Pictures from the Old Testament
1894 Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London p. 38, repr. p. 39
Exhibition of the Works of Ford Madox Brown
1897 Grafton Galleries, London p. 47
The Brothers Dalziel. A Record of Work in Conjunction with many of the most distinguished Artists of the Period 1840-1890
Edward Dalziel, George Dalziel 1901 Methuen and Co., London p. 252
Illustrators of the Sixties
Forrest Reid 1928 Faber & Gwyer, London p. 50
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
T S R Boase 1966 - vol. 29, p. 363
Victorian Illustration: the Pre-Raphaelites, the Idyllic School and the High Victorians
Paul Goldman 1996 Scolar Press, Aldershot pp. 9-10, 370; repr. p. 42
The British Pre-Raphaelite Illustrators
Gregory Suriano 2005 Oak Knell Press, Newcastle, USA, and the British Library, London pp. 65, 306, repr. p. 70
Orientalism, Assyriology and the Bible
Donato Esposito 2006 Sheffield Phoenix Press, Sheffield p. 280
The Private Library
Simon Cooke Summer 2007 - Fifth series, vol. 10:2, pp. 70, 73; repr. fig. 3
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Laura MacCulloch 2008 D. Giles Limited, London p. 34
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Angela Thirlwell, Laura MacCulloch, Tessa Sidey, Tim Barringer 2008 D. Giles Limited, London pp. 34 ff.; repr. p. 41

Associated people

Name Type
Brothers Dalziel Published by

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