Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Joseph Sold by His Brothers (from the ‘Stories of Joseph’)

Ubertini Francesco called Bachiacca

(Borgo San Lorenzo 1494 - Florence 1557)

Together with three other panels showing The Arrest of Simeon (inv. no. 425), The Search for the Stolen Cup (inv. no. 440) and Recovery of the Stolen Cup (inv. no. 442), this painting was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1650, when Iacomo Manilli ascribed it to Raphael. It is, rather, a refined composition by the young Florentine painter Bachiacca, the student of Perugino who in 1515-16 took part in embellishing the famous bridal chamber of Pierfrancesco Borgherini, together with other artists. The series of panels, now dispersed, depict episodes of the life of Joseph, son of Jacob (Genesis 37-50); the present work formed part of the decoration of the pedestal of the marriage bed, together with three other works in the Borghese Collection.

The painting in question represents Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. He is portrayed here wearing a pink cloak and a broad green mantle as he is escorted to Egypt by several men, who most likely form part of the Ishmaelite caravan to whom the unfortunate Joseph was sold as a slave by his own brothers, according to the Biblical narrative. A group of men are visible in the rocky background, together with a donkey and another man with a straw hat: the latter is perhaps Simeon, one of Joseph’s brothers, whose arrest is depicted in another panel of the series (inv. no. 425).

Object details

oil on panel
cm 26 x 14

17th-century frame – part of a polyptych, 44.5 x 61.5 x 6.6 cm


Florence, collection of Pierfrancesco Borgherini - Margherita Acciaiuoli, 1515-16 (Morelli 1897); (?) Rome, collection of Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici (hypothesised); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1650 (Manilli 1650); Inv. 1693, room VI, no. 43; Inv. 1700, room III, no. 106; Inv. 1790, room X, nos 26, 27, 38, 39; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 9. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 1940 Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi;
  • 1956 Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi;
  • 1996 Firenze, Galleria degli Uffizi;
  • 2010 Roma, Palazzo del Quirinale.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1904 Luigi Bartolucci
  • 1904-06 (?) Luigi Bartolucci (transfer on canvas)
  • 1957 Gilda Diotallevi
  • 1965 Alvaro Esposti
  • 1980 Gianluigi Colalucci (transfer from canvas to a new panel)
  • 1995 ENEA (diagnostics)


‘[He] executed many little figures on the coffers and the panelling, which are known by the manner, being different from the others’ (Vasari 1568). Thus did Giorgio Vasari describe the paintings executed by the Florentine artist Francesco Ubertini, called Bachiacca, for the Borgherini bridal chamber. A student of Perugino, Ubertini took part in what was one of the most magnificent commissions in Florence in the second decade of the 16th century, which was made by Salvi Borgherini in 1515 for the nuptials of his son Pierfrancesco and Margherita Acciaiuoli. Bachiacca in fact painted six of the scenes for the decorative programme. Two of these are held at the National Gallery in London (Joseph Receives His Brothers, inv. no. 1218; Joseph Pardons His Brothers, inv. no. 1219), while the other four form part of the Borghese Collection (inv. nos. 425, 427, 440 and 442). As we have seen, Vasari judged Ubertini’s panels to be ‘different from the others’ (Vasari 1568). The remaining works of the series were in fact commissioned to Andrea del Sarto (Stories of Joseph’s Childhood, Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams), to Jacopo Pontormo (Joseph Sold to Potiphar, Pharaoh with his Butler and Baker, Joseph’s Brothers Beg for Help, Joseph with Jacob in Egypt) and to Francesco Granacci (Joseph’s Arrest, Joseph Presents His Father and Brothers to Pharoah): these other works are held today in Florence (Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Pitti) and London (National Gallery).

This elaborate decorative programme was conceived to embellish the furnishings of the marriage chamber of the newlyweds, in accordance with the taste of the era. The design of the room was entrusted to Baccio d’Agnolo, who made ‘panelling, chests, chairs, and a bed, all carved in walnut wood’ (Vasari 1568) and decorated with paintings depicting episodes from the life of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). As is well known, this subject was an apt one for highlighting the qualities of the perfect bridegroom, who like the Egyptian viceroy had to be an able administrator of his household. He was also expected to be faithful to his wife, exercising the same restraint shown by Joseph when he rebuffed the advances of Potiphar’s wife. Finally, the theme served to wish the couple a progeny as numerous as that of Joseph’s father Jacob.

As we can well imagine, this sophisticated display – terminated in 1517 – attracted the attention of refined collectors, beginning with the Medici. In 1529, the Florentine family indeed wished to donate the works to Francis I of France, yet they were fiercely opposed by Margherita Acciaiuoli, who refused the request. The noblewoman’s stinging response to Giovanni Battista della Palla, the agent of the French king who had attempted to dismantle the furnishings to take the much-valued panels, is well known: ‘[...] you base junk dealer! You two-bit trader! [...] this bed that you’re hoping to obtain for your personal interest and cupidity [...] is my marriage bed. My father-in-law Salvi honoured our nuptials by having these magnificent, regal furnishings made, which I hold in great esteem in memory of him and for love of my husband, and which I intend to defend tooth and nail with my very life!’ (Vasari 1568; Ranalli 1845).

Unfortunately, Margherita’s protests were in vain, as her own heirs consented to the dismantling of the furnishings several decades later. Indeed, in 1584 Francesco I de’ Medici obtained the panels by Andrea del Sarto and Granacci, while four of the six scenes executed by Ubertini reached Rome, in circumstances that are still not clear. One possibility is that they found their way to the Eternal City through the Medicean prince, who passed them on to Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici, who in turn gave them to Cardinal Scipione Borghese when he had to return to Florence to replace his deceased brother. As is known, Scipione received several paintings from the former Florentine cardinal, including two small works on copper (Galleria Borghese, inv. nos 292 and 293) and the panel Cupid and Psyche (Galleria Borghese, inv. no. 010) by Jacopo Zucchi.

Whether or not this hypothesis is valid, what is certain is that the four panels were already in possession of the Borghese family by 1650. At first they were displayed at the Casino di Porta Pinciana, where Iacomo Manilli (1650) saw the works and ascribed them to Raphael. Giovanni Morelli (1897) rejected this attribution and rather proposed the name of Ubertini, rightly identifying the panels as those from Palazzo Borgherini. All subsequent critics have been in agreement (Longhi 1928; De Rinaldis 1937; Berenson 1938; Marcucci 1958; Della Pergola 1959; Freedbreg 1961; Id. 1963; Monti 1965; Nikolenko 1966; Braham 1979; La France 2008), thus putting paid to all other attributions proposed in the past, including those to Giulio Romano (Inv. 1693) and to Orazio Gentileschi (Inv. 1700; Inv. 1790; Inv. Fid. 1833; Piancastelli 1891). In the case of Piancastelli, the attribution to Gentileschi was perhaps influenced by the presence of the work Joseph Tells The Meaning Of The Prisoners' Dreams in the Borghese Collection (inv. no. 148), which in the past had been erroneously ascribed to the artist from Pisa.

Regarding the original location of the panels in the Borgherini bedroom, most scholars (Rosini 1848; Shearman 1965; Braham 1979; Bartoli 1996) believe they were placed in the lower corners of the pedestal of the bed, thus rejecting Vasari’s hypothesis that they embellished the panelling (1568), which perhaps hosted the four scenes which were later dispersed (Monti 1965). From a stylistic point of view, all critics concur that the Florentine painter was acquainted with the respective oeuvres other contemporary painters: the German artist Albrecht Altdörfer, Lucas van Leyden (Bartoli 1996; Stefani 2000), Perugino (Abbate 1965; Nikolenko 1966), Raphael (Abbate 1965), Franciabigio (Marcucci 1958; Mancini 1998) and Andrea del Sarto (Bartoli 1996). With regard to the last-named master, Ubertini ‘was much assisted and favoured by him in matters of art’, in the words of Vasari (1568).

Doubts still persist concerning the interpretation of two of the four scenes, namely the work in question – which some interpret as The Arrest of the Brothers (Della Pergola 1959; Stefani 2000; Herrmann Fiore 2006; Riccardo 2020) – and the one depicting Joseph Sold by His Brothers, which some critics believe to be Simeon Brought to Jail (Braham 1979; Bartoli 1996) and others Joseph Orders Simeon To Be Imprisoned (Dolcini 2010).

The works were executed in 1515-16 (see, most recently, Bartoli 2016). Several autograph drawings have been associated with the panels, including those held in Florence (Uffizi Gallery, inv. no. 350bis), Paris (Louvre, inv. no. 9874) and Vienna (Albertina Museum, inv. no. 152). Over the years, a number of critics have called attention to these drawings, including Morelli (1897), Bernard Berenson (1937), Arthur K. McComb (1926), Giovanna Gaeta Bertelà (1980), Chris Fischer (1984) and, most recently, Beatrice Riccardo (2020).

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Vasari, Vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani, da Cimabue a’ tempi nostri, Firenze 1568, ed. a cura G. Milanesi, V, Firenze 1880, p. 343; VI, Firenze 1881, pp. 160, 315, 455;
  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana Roma 1650, pp. 111-112;
  • P. Rossini, II Mercurio Errante, Roma 1725, p. 95;
  • F. Fantozzi, Guida di Firenze, Firenze 1842, p. 117;
  • E. e C. Platner, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, III, Stuttgart 1842, p. 282;
  • F. Ranalli, Storia delle arti in Italia, Firenze 1845, p. 820;
  • G. Rosini, Storia della pittura italiana, Pisa 1848, p. 145;
  • G. Frizzoni, Collezione di quaranta disegni scelti dalla Raccolta del Senatore Giovanni Morelli, riprodotti in eliotipia, Milano 1886, tav. X;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, pp. 270-271;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 201;
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, pp. 95, 102;
  • G. Lafenestre, E. Richtenberger, La peinture en Europe. Rome. Les Musées, les Collections particulières, les Palais, Paris 1905, p. 9;
  • M. Tinti, Francesco Bachiacca e i suoi arazzi, in “Dedalo”, I, 1920, pp. 805-806;
  • K. Woermann, Geschichte der Kunst, Leipzig-Wien 1920, IV, p. 383;
  • A. McComb, Francesco Ubertini (Bachiacca), in “The Art Bullettin”, VIII, 1926, p. 161;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 218;
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento, Milano 1936, p. 31;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Documenti inediti per la Storia della R. Galleria Borghese in Roma. III: Un Catalogo della Quadreria Borghese nel Palazzo a Campo Marzio redatto nel 1760, in “Archivi”, III-IV, 1937, p. 199;
  • B. Berenson, The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, Chicago 1938, I, p. 298; II, p. 20, nn. 182, 188; III, fig. 934;
  • Mostra del ‘500 toscano in Palazzo Strozzi, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi, 1940), Firenze 1940, pp. 24, 107;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 55;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 37;
  • L. Berti, Note brevi su inediti toscani, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, XXXVII, 1952, p. 258;
  • L. Ferrara, Galleria Borghese, Novara 1956, p. 38;
  • Il Pontormo e il Primo Manierismo Fiorentino, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi, 1956), a cura di U. Baldini, Firenze 1956, pp. 108-111;
  • A. Pigler, Barockthemen. Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, I, Budapest 1956, pp. 60, 86;
  • L. Marcucci, Contributo al Bachiacca, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, XLIII-III, 1958, pp. 26, 38-59, nota 6;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 14-15 n. 9;
  • S. J. Freedberg, Paintings of the High Renaissance in Rome and Florence, Cambridge Mass. 1961, p. 630;
  • S. J. Freedberg, Andrea del Sarto, II, Cambridge 1963, p. 55;
  • F. Abbate, L’attività giovanile del Bachiacca fino al viaggio romano, in “Paragone”, CLXXXIX, 1965, pp. 24-49;
  • R. Monti, Andrea del Sarto, Milano 1965, pp. 145-147 nota 72;
  • J. Shearman, Andrea del Sarto, II, Oxford 1965, p. 232;
  • L. Nikolenko, Francesco Ubertini called il Bachiacca, Locust Valley 1966, pp. 35-36;
  • A. Braham, The bed of Pier Francesco Borgherini, in “The Burlington Magazine”, CXXI, 1979, pp. 754-765;
  • G. Gaeta Bertelà, in Le arti del principato mediceo, a cura di C. Adelson, Firenze 1980, pp. 65-66 nn. 55-57;
  • C. Fischer, Italian drawings in the J.F. Willumsen collection, Copenaghen 1984, pp. 66-68, n. 56;
  • N. Pons, La ' camera Borgherini ' e l'arredo del palazzo Rosselli Del Turco, in Gli antichi chiassi tra Ponte Vecchio e Santa Trinita, a cura di A. Bernacchioni, G. Trotta, Firenze 1992, pp. 179-183;
  • P. Costamagna, Pontormo, Milano 1994, pp. 124-125;
  • R. Bartoli, in L'officina della maniera. Varietà e fierezza nell'arte fiorentina del Cinquecento fra le due repubbliche 1494-1530, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Galleria degli Uffizi, 1996-97) a cura di
  • A. Cecchi, A. Natali, A. Petrioli Tofani, Venezia 1996, pp. 252-253,
  • M. Mancini, Francesco di Ubertino, detto Bachiacca, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, L, 1998, ad vocem;
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, pp. 284-285;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 139;
  • R. G. La France, Bachiacca. Artist of the Medici court, Firenze 2008, pp. 145-146, n. 8;
  • L. Dolcini, Giuseppe nella cultura figurativa italiana dal IV al XVI secolo, in Giuseppe negli arazzi di Pontormo e Bronzino: viaggio tra i tesori del Quirinale, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo del Quirinale, 2010), a cura di Louis Godart, Loreto 2010, pp. 48-50;
  • B. Riccardo, Francesco Ubertini detto il Bachiacca: il pittore "dimenticato" della corte medicea, in "Theory and Criticism of Literature and Arts", XI, 2019, pp. 26-34.