Birmingham – Barber Institute of Fine Arts (Joseph Distributing Corn in Egypt by Bartholomeus Breenbergh)

This artwork was painted by the Dutch artist Bartholomeus Breenbergh in 1655 and was purchased by the gallery in 1963. It shows Joseph distributing corn and it’s known that the location is in Egypt because of the obelisk. There’s another very similar painting to this which the artist painted in the previous year, although that artwork is now in private hands.

There’s some provenance to this artwork, likely sold at an auction in Amsterdam during 1702 when works owned by the merchant and art collector Jan Agges were sold following his death. It was later purchased by P. Laendert de Neufville in 1756 who at the time was a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam, but he suffered severe financial difficulty in 1763 and after trying to pay his debts for some years the whole house of cards fell down in 1770. This explains the sale of the painting in 1771 to Fouquet and was later sold again in 1844.

I still find the whole provenance of artworks such as this fascinating, as the route for this painting to end up in Birmingham is a long and complex one determined by some many different factors.