[Thomas Martyn]. The English Connoisseur: Containing an Account of Whatever is Curious in Painting, Sculpture, &c. in the Palaces and Seats of the Nobility and Principal Gentry of England, Both in Town and Country. London, 1766, vol. 2, p. 36, lists as hanging over the chimney in the collection of Paul Methuen, Esq. at Grosvenor Street a painting of Our Saviour carried before Pontius Pilate, in watercolor, by Lucas [van] Leyden [the present work].
Sidney Colvin. "Fine Art: Exhibition of Old Masters at the Royal Academy . . ." The Academy: A Weekly Review of Literature, Science, and Art 11 (January 27, 1877), pp. 82–83, as by Lucas van Leyden; identifies the subject as the story of Joseph.
Pictures by Old Masters, Loan Collections and Recent Gifts to the Museum, the Henry G. Marquand Collection. New York, April–November 1897, p. 89, no. 293, calls this painting "Joseph's Coat" and claims that it is one of the few documented works by Lucas van Leyden; links it with a series of the Story of Joseph painted by Lucas in tempera on linen and recorded by Van Manden [sic for Karel van Mander] as having been seen in a house in Delft and damaged by the damp climate of Holland [see Ref. Bernath 1911].
Morton H. Bernath. "Concerning Lucas van Leyden." Burlington Magazine 18 (February 1911), pp. 295–96, attributes this painting to Lucas van Leyden and identifies the subject matter as Joseph's Coat; cites Sidney Colvin's opinion that this is one of Lucas' tempera paintings on linen described by Karel van Mander (in his "Schilderboek," 1603–4) as being in a brewer's house in Delft; believes our painting was part of a series of decorations illustrating the story of Joseph, and that copies of two of the original paintings were published by Lionel Cust (in "Notes on Pictures in the Royal Collections, XIX. Paintings Attributed to Lucas van Leyden," Burlington Magazine, vol. 18, December 1910, p. 151, as collection Hampton Court, London); calls one of these Hampton Court pictures, identified by him as the Death of Jacob, so close to ours that "the two compositions could very well be regarded as pendants" (see Cust, above, p. 151, pl. C).
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. Letter to Dr. Burleigh Parkhurst. July 21, 1911 [according to handwritten notes in the EP Archive file], notes that this painting shows more Italian influence than any known work by Lucas van Leyden, and that certain stylistic reasons suggest it may be Swiss; dates it to about 1520; calls the title a misnomer and observes the scene is "perhaps the interpretation of a dream".
Bryson Burroughs. Catalogue of Paintings. 1st ed. New York, 1914, p. 164, as "Joseph Expounding Pharaoh's Dream (?)," attributed to Lucas van Leyden.
Erwin Panofsky. Letter to Harry B. Wehle. September 11, 1933, reports (and lends his support to) Karl von Tolnai and Lothar Freund's proposal that this picture represents the Tiburtine Sibyl Interpreting the Dream of the Senators, noting that renditions of the latter theme are strikingly similar to those of Joseph Interpreting the Dreams of Pharaoh; reads the inscription on the sword as "Mars Ultor," which was "meant to enliven the local colouring".
Campbell Dodgson. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. October 25, 1936, based on a faded photograph, is inclined to attribute this painting to Breu the Younger, an opinion corroborated by Tietze in a letter to him of 1935.
Hans Tietze and E. Tietze. "A Painting by Hans Breu the Younger." Burlington Magazine 69 (September 1936), pp. 134–35, ill. p. 132, attribute this picture to Breu the Younger, based on a comparison with his illuminated manuscripts in Eton College (1540–45; published by Campbell Dodgson, "Ein Minaturwerk Jörg Breus d. J.," Münchner Jahrbuch, vol. 11, 1934, pp. 191–210), observing that both show "the same exuberant architecture in a Renaissance style; the same imperfect understanding; the same courtly types and costumes; the same tendency to depth in space"; find the style of the MMA painting still close to that of Breu the Elder and date it to before 1534, when the Younger took charge of his father's workshop; remark that it may have been a decorative cloth panel intended to replace a more costly tapestry; further suggest that this painting may be a cartoon for a tapestry, noting that "most of the soldiers wear their swords on the wrong side as if the final work were to be in reverse".
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 225–27, ill., attribute this painting to Breu the Younger and interpret its subject as the legend of Trajan and the Widow, in which the widow pleads for justice following the killing of her son by Trajan's son; suggest that it is a sketch for a tapestry and find stylistic similarities with Breu the Younger's late woodcuts, such as the "History of the Chaste Susannah" and "Judith and Holofernes".
Gert von der Osten and Horst Vey. Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands 1500 to 1600. Baltimore, 1969, p. 216, call it "The Widow in the Presence of the Emperor Trajan," by Jörg Breu the Younger, and note that it gives "some idea of the pompous decoration of the Renaissance and perhaps of the murals, now vanished, of the South German cities".
Laurence B. Kanter. Draft label copy. May 1979, comments that this painting must have been intended as a wall or facade decoration when Italianate ornament and design were popular in Southern Germany and Switzerland during the first half of the 16th century; notes that its draughtsmanship, perspective, and figure style are more sophisticated than known works by Breu the Younger; suggests the artist was associated with Burgkmair at Augsburg, since the latter's paintings and prints seem to be the source for all the peculiarly North Italian architectural forms and details in our painting; also finds similarities with woodcuts and drawings from the circle of Hans Holbein in Basel, especially with works by the Master IF (Johannes Franck?) and Ambrosius Holbein; based on the orientalizing costumes and headdresses and the arcane inscription on the carpet at the center, suggests it portrays an Old Testament subject.
Bernard Aikema and Andrew John Martin in Renaissance Venice and the North: Crosscurrents in the Time of Bellini, Dürer and Titian. Ed. Bernard Aikema and Beverly Louise Brown. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi. Milan, 1999, p. 333, ill. p. 334, calls this picture "The Judgment of Trajan (?)" by an anonymous German painter; notes that it "seems to derive from models of the Paduan school, such as the frescoes in the Scuola del Carmine, recently attributed to Gian Antonio Corona".
Karen E. Thomas in German Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, p. 7.
Maryan W. Ainsworth in German Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, p. 4.
Joshua Waterman in German Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 29–33, 281–82, no. 4, ill. (color) and fig. 28 (color detail).