Oil on canvas, 115.5cm by 94cm.
The painting was purchased by Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793) from the Barberini Palace in Rome.
A glorious work, it conveys all the anguish felt by Jacob as he sees and holds the bloody coat that he had given to his favourite son Joseph.
Joseph’s eleven jealous brothers had smeared it with goat’s blood and sold him into slavery, telling their father that he was dead.
Some years later Joseph found favour with the Pharaoh in Egypt, where he eventually held high office. He and his father were reunited more than twenty years after his betrayal.
Guercino, who worked extremely quickly and had a prodigious output, was active mainly in Bologna, where his work was praised by Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619) whose own work is said to have been an early influence.
He also spent a short time in Rome, where he painted a number of frescoes and an altarpiece for the new Pope Clement V, as well as a portrait of Clement.
After the pope’s death, he returned to Bologna, where he became the city’s leading artist following the death of his main commercial rival Guido Reni (1575-1642).