The cycle depicts the twelve sons of Jewish patriarch Jacob, also called Israel. These twelve brothers became the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. The first two sheets depict Jacob’s favourite sons, Joseph and Benjamin, whom he had with his second wife, Rachel. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of the father’s affection for him and so they sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt where he later became a wealthy vizier. De Gheyn engraved the cycle himself, merging the pictorial character of van Mander’s design with the muscular male type used during de Gheyn’s apprenticeship in the workshop of Hendrick Goltzius.