The Triumph of Joseph by Hilaire Pader

Hilaire Pader

The Triumph of Joseph, 1657, Oil on canvas, 275 x 775 cm, Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Toulouse, (CC BY-SA 4.0) https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48178134

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Lord of the Land

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This is one of three biblical scenes painted by the Toulouse-born artist Hilaire Pader in 1657 for the city’s cathedral of St Stephen. It hangs on the left side of the transept, underneath the organ.

The horizontal orientation of this long frieze works well to present the majesty and grandeur of Joseph’s office of vizier in Egypt. The painting is characterized by sumptuous colours, which stand out vividly even within the dark interior of its cathedral setting. The inclusion of such a large crowd of people in different styles of dress and from diverse backgrounds emphasizes the extent of Joseph’s influence over the whole country (41:43–46) and indeed over the entire world. The artist is, therefore, accurately showing how ‘all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth’ (v.57).

Joseph is seated in a gilded chariot, dressed in a rich robe, with the typically Egyptian symbols of his lordly status—a crown, golden necklace, and ring—clearly visible (de Vaux 1978: 299). The artist courted controversy by attributing some of his own facial features to his handsome and relatively youthful hero (Lestrade 2010: 8).

Joseph is preceded on his triumphant tour of the country by heralds who announce him with a cry of ‘abrek’ (41:43). The original meaning of this term is uncertain. It is probably an Egyptian loan-word, and is variously translated as ‘kneel’, or ‘attention’ (Vergote 2016: 135–37). Pader perhaps interprets it in the latter sense, since the bystanders are not doing obeisance before the chariot. The population of Egypt are represented, then, as submitting to the authority vested in Joseph (v.40), but the expressions on their faces suggest that they greet his passing with joy and gratitude rather than from a sense of duty or fear. This is a fitting reception for the man who has been inspired by God to ensure that ‘the land may not perish through the famine’ (v.36).

 

References

Lestrade, Jean. 2010. Le Triomphe de Joseph et Le Deluge (Whitefish: Kessinger)

Trouvé, Stéphanie. 2016. ‘Lomazzo and France: Hilaire Pader’s Translation: Theoretical and Artistic Issues’, available at https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01319315v3

de Vaux, Roland. 1978. The Early History of Israel, vol. 1 (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd)

Vergote, Jozef. 1959. Joseph en Égypte (Louvain: Publications Universitaires)

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