Properzia de Rossi “Joseph and Potiphar’s wife”

Properzia de Rossi. Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
Properzia de Rossi. Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife. 1520s. Marble. Museo di San Petronia, Bologna, Italy. Wikimedia Commons.

We see the relief with two figures of man and woman and a bed with canopy. The figures turn to us by their left side. Joseph is standing. Potiphar’s wife is sitting on the bed.

With one hand she holds onto the edge of her bed. With her other outstretched hand, she grabs the man by his cloak, trying to stop him.

There are strong diagonal going from the man’s head on the left high corner to the woman’s left leg on the right low corner.

Shallow carving creates realistic figures. We see very naturalistic folds of canopy and man’s cloak. And there is quite delicate treatment of woman’s figure: very accurate breast with nipples and clear silhouette of her body because of wet effect and illusion of transparency of her cloths.

Carving forms are filling almost the whole surface of the picture. But projecting degree is different.

We see very slight projecting of left leg of Joseph. And more high relief of other parts of his body.

Also we can notice free 3D elements, such as his foot, woman’s head or her right leg. Remarkably, the man’s figure has less 3D elements than woman’s one.

Probably it makes the contribution to the story. Joseph wants to leave and that is why he is ready to disappear from the room and literally from the space of the relief.

Meanwhile Potiphar’s wife wants to stay in her room and her figure wants to separate from relief’s background in order to have more flexibility and power to stop Joseph.

This relief was created from solid marble block with using carving technique. Marble is weak in tension. That is why the master made 3D elements not so thin in diameter. For instance, the heroine’s arm is too heavy for woman.

It is interesting that Properzia de Rossi took very dark type of marble. Probably such colour was more suitable for night story.

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