This newly discovered drawing is related to a study of the same subject on the verso of the Artist drawing from a Model of circa 1639 in the British Museum, London, M. Royalton-Kisch, op.cit., no. 27; O. Benesch, The Drawings of Rembrandt, London, 1973, II, no. 423, fig. 510. The recto of the British Museum drawing is related to the unfinished etching An Artist drawing from a Model (Bartsch 192). Peter Schatborn writes of the present study: 'the drawing of Joseph interpreting the dreams of the Butler and the Baker can on good grounds be attributed to Rembrandt. The style is similar to a group of studies which is also done in the same technique' (letter of August 1992).
The present study was presumably drawn immediately after the British Museum sheet. The pose of Joseph, particularly the numerous pentimenti in the drawing of his left arm, so energetically studied in the British Museum sheet, is resolved in the present drawing. The greatest difference between the two studies lies in figures of the baker and butler, both in pose and in their reaction to Joseph's interpretation of their dreams. In the British Museum drawing the baker, recognisable by his flat cap, recoils in horror while the butler, his hands clasped, listens passively. In the present study the pose of the butler is less dramatic, although the outstretched hands eloquently express his emotions. The subsidiary study of the baker's head, above, slightly adjusts the angle of the torso and the beard is reduced to a moustache. The butler shown in profile in the British Museum drawing, his expression is thereby obscured, is seen in the present study almost full face leaning forward anxiously, with his hands clasped, as in the earlier study, conveying his absorbed attention to Joseph's speech. The architectural background of the British Museum drawing which included a spiral staircase behind Joseph, a motif often encountered in Rembrandt's work, is almost entirely eliminated in the present study, in favour of a greater concentration on the figures.
The technique of the drawing with iron-gall ink on paper prepared with brown wash is typical of drawings of the second half of the 1630s. Drawings in this technique securely related to dated pictures or prints of this period include: studies for the etching of Joseph recounting his Dreams of 1638 at Rotterdam and in a New York private collection (Benesch nos. 161 and 168, figs. 191 and 199) and the study in the British Museum for the Portrait of Maria Trip of 1639, on loan to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Benesch no. 422, fig. 493; Royalton-Kisch, no. 26). Peter Schatborn suggests Rembrandt adopted the practice of preparing paper from his master Lastman, who used red chalk on prepared paper, as in the study of Rachel in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, P. Schatborn, Dutch Figure Drawings from the Seventeenth Century, The Hague, 1981, p. 49, fig. 3. In the present drawing the figure of Joseph is on a separate piece of paper pasted onto the original sheet after the other figures had been drawn, as it slightly overlaps the subsidiary study of the baker's head. It may be possible that Rembrandt did this himself in order to experiment with the relative positions of the standing Joseph and the two seated figures. Schatborn noted that another drawing of the same period in Berlin (Benesch no. 256, fig. 219) was cut into pieces by a later collector or dealer, and suggested that in the present drawing Joseph may have 'stood on a lower position and a little further away than he does now' (letter of August 1992).
The subject of the drawing, from Genesis 40, 1-20, was treated again by Rembrandt in a much later sheet of the 1650s in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam (Benesch no. 912, fig. 1189, P. Schatborn, Tekeningen van Rembrandt, zijn onbekende leerlingen en navolgers, The Hague, 1985, no. 40). The composition and the head-dresses of the baker and the butler in the British Museum drawing suggest that Rembrandt knew Lucas van Leyden's engraving of the same subject (Bartsch 22).
The inscription 'R.t' presumably by a 17th Century collector is the same as on the Artist in his Studio formerly in the Springell Collection and now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, Benesch no. 390, fig. 470