LEYDEN, Lucas van
(b. 1494, Leiden, d. 1533, Leiden)

Lot and his Daughters

c. 1520
Oil on wood, 48 x 34 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The story of the destruction of Sodom, Lot's escape, and his subsequent seduction by his two daughters is told in Genesis. Lot and his family were allowed to leave the city on condition that they did not look back. Lot's wife disobeyed the instruction and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot continued on with his daughters. Since their husbands had not fled with them, the daughters said to each other: "Our father is old and there is not a man in the country to come to us in the usual way. Come now, let us make our father drink wine and then lie with him and in this way keep the family alive through our father." The sons born of this union subsequently founded the tribes of the Moabites and the Ammonites.

Both as a strongly erotic group painting and as a history painting, the subject was a popular one in the 16th and 17th century. This painting, whose attribution to van Leyden - said to have executed his first commission at the age of twelve - is not altogether certain, falls into the second category. Alongside the group in the foreground, the destruction of Sodom seen in the left-hand background establishes a second point of focus. Influenced by Patenier, the painter portrays a kind of "global landscape" extending from the front left-hand corner into the depths of the composition. He thereby devotes particular care to the execution of the landscape details.

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