This painting shows the interior of a large prison room. There is a thick stone wall and iron grating. Three figures are the focal point of this composition. One man, in a dark blue cloak, is standing and faces two other men who stare intently at his face. One of them is seated with a leg iron, on a stone bench and the other leans on a stone ledge. They are are dressed in simple brown cloaks. The standing figure has a raised left arm and is gesturing with his hand outstretched toward the other figures.
This history painting depicts a scene from the Old Testament (Genesis, Chapter 40) in which Joseph tells the Pharoah's servants what their dreams foretell. The Bible story relates that while in prison, the chief butler and chief baker to the Pharoah were troubled by their recent dreams. Joseph interpreted the butler 's dream to mean that he would be released and returned to the Pharoah's service in three days. Joseph asks the butler to remember him when that happens so that he might be released from prison. Joseph then interprets the baker's dream to mean that he will be put to death by the Pharoah in three days time. The events happened as Joseph predicted, but the chief butler forgets him and he remains imprisoned.
The setting for this painting is the interior of a prison where Joseph, standing on the left, is shown gesturing toward the baker and butler who stare intently at his face.
A young boy stands in profile, leaning against the trunk of a tree set in a woods with reflections in the foreground of a pond or small stream. The boy faces the light, casting deep shadows against the tree, and looks upwards.
Whistler and his brother-in-law, Francis Seymour Haden sketched together in London, frequently in Greenwich Park. Despite the urban setting, this etching of Whistler's nepher, Seymour, conveys the sense of reverie in a country setting.