This is one of the most outstanding works of John Friedrich Overbeck (1789 – 1869), a German painter who was together with his compatriot Franz Pforr, one of the founders of the Los Nazarenos pictorial group, in which Overbeck acted in some way as coordinator or director.
Joseph sold by his Overbeck brothers
Joseph sold by his brothers is a fresco painting on the walls of the Casa Bartholdi, in Rome, throughout the years 1816 and 1817. One of the interests of this group of artists was to create works that would recover certain values of Renaissance painting. It is in this context that this type of mural work must be understood.
But the similarities with works from the Renaissance are greater, especially with respect to artists between the Quattrocento and the Cinquecento such as Perugino, who for example worked on the Sistine Chapel with scenes like Giving the keys to Saint Peter.
Those similarities can be seen, for example, in the way of differentiating the compositional planes in a very pronounced way. In addition, similarities can also be found in the colors or in the postures of the figures.
Overbeck and the Nazarenes mostly did religious-themed paintings. In fact, this painter even finishedfor converting to the Catholic religion. But these are artists that when they refer to religion, in reality we would have to understand it as spirituality, and that is what they tried to transfer to their works with that archaic style.
It is a very purist art, and by this they mean that they want to recover a painting prior to the contamination that was the purpose of wanting to introduce the illusion of reality. They only seek to ex alt the spirit. Somehow parallels can be drawn with the painters of the Pre-Raphaelites group. However, the Nazarenes had a greater influence at the time, for example on the more Catholic Spanish painters, and even on many 19th century illustrators.
However, over time, art historians and critics have not given these artists much value, and it has even been said that they were not really technical marvels. And to these technical shortcomings, and not to its theoretical concepts, some details such as very simple perspectives and as if by steps, should be due. In fact, within the group of Los Nazarenos, there is another painter likeCorneliuswho is capable of working on his compositions with depth in a much more harmonic way.