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A scene from the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

A scene from the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

Genesis 39 from a German-language Bible, Nuremberg, Anton Koberger, 1483

State Library of Victoria, RARESEF 093 C833K, vol 1, fol 23v

The Persian tale of Yusuf and Zulaykha has its roots in the Qurʾan, which in turn drew on Biblical accounts of Joseph and Potiphar's wife.

The woodcut illustration in this early German-language Bible depicts the scene in Genesis 39 where Joseph (Yusuf) is sent to prison after being accused of attempting to seduce the wife of the Egyptian minister Potiphar. The actual would-be seductress can be seen holding Joseph’s garment, which she had torn from him as he escaped the house. 

Much was made of this incident when the story was carried over into later Persian versions. The poet Jami ended his retelling with Yusuf being so enchanted with the, by then, spiritually enlightened Zulaykha that he accidentally tears her robe in a clever reversal of roles.