Jules-Ambroise-François Naudin (French, 1817ca. 1876)
Joseph’s Coat Brought Back to Jacob, 1841
Oil on canvas, 57 1/2 x 44 3/4 in.

This painting earned Jules Naudin the third prize in the Prix de Rome competition of 1841. The subject assigned was the Old Testament scene in which Joseph’s coat is returned to his father Jacob (Genesis 37: 31-33). The Academy set the parameters for the scene as follows: “After taking Joseph’s robe and soaking it with the blood of a kid they had killed, they presented it to his father and said “Here is a robe that we found, see if it is that of your son or not.” The father, having recognized it, said, “It is the robe of my son, a cruel beast has devoured him, a beast has devoured Joseph.” … Note: the young Benjamin has not yet left his father. He is about 10-12 years old.”
Through his command of gesture and expression, Naudin clearly conveyed Jacob’s grief at the loss of his favorite son. Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, collapses, his delicate blond curls cascading over Jacob’s shoulder, while the women swoon in the tent at right. The brothers’ treacherous act is subtly suggested by the goat in the lower right hand corner, almost hidden in shadow, and by the juxtaposition of Jacob’s brilliant red robe with Joseph’s blood-stained garment. The well-defined musculature of the brother presenting the robe reveals the importance of the male nude in academic practice. Students kept their many nude studies, called académies, and recycled them as needed, transforming them into biblical or historical figures, with or without costume.