The Chaldean Account of Genesis (1872) was written by George Smith, who translated the original tablets. The story makes up part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and describes the Great Flood a good while before it is believed the Book of Genesis was written. Some of the images are from sculptures in the British Museum.
These photos are from the exhibition “The Ancestors” at Canterbury Cathedral. There are around eight 12th and 13th century windows that have been brought down from the heights (around 70 metres) of the cathedral while the stonework is to be repaired, and are currently down at eye (ish) level in the chapel. You can get right up close to them. It’s open until 25th August and is really a once in a lifetime opportunity. However your life isn’t my life so maybe you’re not bothered.
Gustave Dore, painter and engraver. Visited Scotland, lived with his mum.
In Genesis 19, we saw that Lot and his daughters escaped from Sodom, and Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she made the mistake of turning round to see the Lord destroy the city. We are now towards the end of Genesis 19, where Lot and his daughters have gone up into the mountains and are hanging out in a cave. They are alone, and this solitude worries the elder daughter. She says to her sister that their father is old, and there is no one else around, and they have to ensure their family line continues, and why don’t we get dad drunk, then I’ll sleep with him, then you can sleep with him, and we’ll get pregnant and hey presto line is continued.
So, the elder sister gets dad drunk, sleeps with him; ‘he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up’; and the next day she suggests to her sister she do the same, which she does – again, Lot doesn’t realise that any of this has happened. And so, it comes to pass that….
‘So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.’
– The daughters obviously feel that maintaining the family line is important. Perhaps, they also feel that there are not a lot of folk left after the Lord’s destruction of the cities. This is real dedication to the family, and helps ensure the longevity of Abraham’s line (the line that the Lord had promised would last). I have a feeling that this family line may, following the course of time, prove to be an important one.
– It should not be assumed that the daughters lusted after their father, or vice versa (which the following paintings generally fail to acknowledge…).
– Did they have time to collect wine before they fled Sodom?
– They must have gotten Lot very drunk for him not to realise. Twice.
– The text is very careful to ensure that Lot is not to blame for what happens, in fact, he had no idea! So, all potential shame is placed on the sisters. How can someone be guilty of something they did not know they had done?
– I am looking forward to hearing about Lot’s reaction to the pregnancies, once they start to show.
– It is possible that Lot is being punished (raped) for previously offering his daughters to the townspeople in Sodom. What he was prepared to put his daughters through, is now being done unto him.
There is an enormous amount of painting dedicated to this biblical scene. I imagine it gave artists and patrons the opportunity to have some sexy paint on their walls while still maintaining a certain amount of piousness. The range of approaches is not very wide though. I have chosen the following as some have unusual touches, or are generally representative of the subject. Also, sometimes this scene is called ‘The Rape of Lot by his Daughters’. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO GET A BIGGER IMAGE AND A BETTER VIEW OF THINGS)
Firstly, the Gentileschi’s – father and daughter. Orazio (the father) has painted two L&hD’s. They are pretty restrained, the first showing a tenderness, with Lot almost being mothered. There isn’t so much sexiness, other than the daughter in yellow’s dress slipping off. The wine is knocked over, and Lot seems knocked out. I’m guessing this is inbetween daughters. The group are entwined with complexity, of limbs and colour. One daughter points off to the distance, probably to Sodom to indicate the fate of the city, and perhaps the families lack of male options to come… Its pretty serene this one.
In his second, later version, there is more of a sense of space, plus a bit more sexiness. One daughter (perhaps the elder) seems to be trying to convince the other of something. Again, Lot seems to be treated with motherly/daughterly tenderness rather than sensuality. The wine is knocked over again, but there is an addition of vine leaves, which might serve to answer the question of whether they brought wine from Sodom or not. I really like the colour of the sky and vine together, a hint of bright hopefulness in the midst of the cave.
Here we have Orazio’s own daughter, Artemisia’s version. It’s interesting to think of the closeness of relationship these two may have shared (Artemisia trained in her fathers workshop) and how it might have affected their approach to the subject matter. Both certainly are straining to a complexity of emotions between all 3 characters in the paintings. Lot in this painting is clearly in the process of becoming drunk, and his affection is growing, a hand on his daughters shoulder, another approaching her elbow. It seems a plan is underway. I do wonder if its a good idea to give Lot a slice of bread though, if you’re wanting to get him drunk. The other daughter tenderly touches Lot’s own shoulder about to ask if he wants more wine. Lot’s cheeks are rosy. In the background, mother is turned to salt. Vine leaves are silhouetted in the opening of the cave.
Here we get a bit more raunchy. Simon Vouet paints Lot in a stupor, happy to fondle his daughters breast. He moves his head back a bit in an attempt to regain focus of his daughters face. She meanwhile lifts a leg over his and gazes into his eyes. The second daughter is grinning a wee bit, and struggles to hold onto the grand vase which looks like it could hold plenty of vino – she also seems to be pulling something out of a purse, obviously not a condom – it looks like a digestive biscuit. Lot has lost control, and the entire episode has an unpleasant creepiness to it, which the Gentileschi’s do not.
Joachim Wtewaeil was a flax merchant as well as a painter, but there is a distinct lack of flax here. He was apparently known for inserting sensual, suggestive elements into his nude paintings, and I dare say the pinkish, folded cloth on the ground beneath the nude daughter may be one of these, plus all the ripe and rotting fruit. There’s also a strange bulbous white growth under the nude daughters elbow, which looks pretty testicle-like. Maybe I’m seeing too much. There is an abundance of fruit and wine here, and a difference being that the daughters too seem to have drunk a bit. Their cheeks are rosy as well (though many things make rosy cheeks). Lot’s drunk looking, but not out of control, and daughter two seems to approach him for a kiss. Again, this seems more about getting away with sexy paint than representing any complex moral situation.
I can’t find much out about this one, but once again, sexual gratification for the viewer seems important here. Lot’s right knee, covered in his robe, seems to have taken on the shape of a giant cock. The see through fabric that almost comes straight out of this cock-knee is not too subtle either. Daughter is grinning, but Lot has a very forced uncomfortable expression. Daughter 2 is also topless, and pouring wine from an extravagant height. Daughter 1 has a strange necklace on, with what I’m guessing is the face of Jesus on it – I don’t know what that means, perhaps all this terrible, unavoidable sexiness is being held together by religious intent and nothing else.
I like this Paul Cezanne, not for its depiction of the scene, but because it seems that Daughter has just leapt into Lot’s lap, almost straight on to his boner. While his face suggests surprise, his right hand suggests readiness. Its the only painting which really has sexual energy in it- there is heat, darkness, fleshiness.
This one is quite weird – there’s a lot of pottery, and the figures and clothing all look a bit like porcelain. They have almost transparent skin, and there is just a hint of pinkishness on Lots cheeks and nose. Lots left hand is relaxed, his right daintily begins to undress his daughter, and he gazes down in anticipation of the soon to be revealed breast. It’s all very cold and passionless, not to mention a lack of moral distress. The strangest thing though is that the rock Lot is sat on seems to be wrapped in cloth. It also (honestly) has a hint of glans penis about it. There is a glacial stillness to the painting which I quite like, it just doesn’t seem appropriate to the scene. Francheschini’s paintings all seem to have this porcelain stillness.
Well, this one has a couple of things going for it as far as I’m concerned. First, Lot is reeking. His eyes are all over the place, his fingers aren’t working properly, his legs are spread, and there’s no chance of him standing up without causing all kinds of mess. Secondly, the daughter on the left is posing in a convincingly post-coitus manner, languid, stretching, maybe about to fall asleep. This painting feels exhausted. In fact, maybe Lot isn’t that knackered, maybe he’s attempting to get up for round two. As an aside, apparently Jacob van Loo killed a man in an inn in Amsterdam, and had to flee to Paris. Positively Caravaggian.
Now this one is just ridiculous. What a barrel of laughs they are having, not a care in the world. Looking at some more of Jean-Francois de Troy‘s work, he seems like a class I pompoustier.
This is another Joachim Wtewael. I put this one in, partly because everyone is a bit green, but also because it seems to further add to the fantasy of the (male) viewer, by adding a little touch of potential lesbian action – daughter on the left is looking over to daughter on the right adoringly, while just about to touch her with a raised big toe…I’m also intrigued by Lot’s choice of breast touching technique.
Johann Rottmayr makes the list due to the fanstastic drunken stare in Lot’s eyes. He is 100% waltered.
Marcelle Hanselaar is the only contemporary artist in this list, she is also only the second woman. What I like about this is that the daughters are clearly in charge here, whether Lot likes it or not. Plus, it is the first to show the actual sexual act, and the daughter is on top and in charge, for responsible and practical reasons. I don’t know what one of the daughters is hiding, it looks like a mirror.
And finally, Otto Dix’s interpretation. This is the best drunken Lot – he is grinning with his moustache, and his gaze and raised hand are actually depicted in the act of missing the glass of wine. He cannot focus at all. His right hand is curling up at something, the nothingness just out of grasp of every true drunkard. The daughter (again on top) seems to be using the wine as a distraction while she mounts him, and this is another more complex representation of the act. The other daughter however looks a little too pleased with the proceedings. Is she undressing or covering up? In the background Sodom burns.
In Genesis 18, the Lord appeared to Abraham, and after Abraham got some food together, the Lord said that Sarah would have a son, despite her age:
“And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
The Lord is not keen on Sarah laughing inwardly at this. She lies and says she wasn’t laughing. But she was. The Lord then walks with Abraham, and tells him that the sins of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are ‘very grevious’ but the sins aren’t explained. Abraham then manages to convince the Lord not to be too angry if there are some people in the city who are not righteous.
In Genesis 19, the Lord sends two angels to speak to Lot (Abraham’s nephew) who lives in Sodom. At this point it gets a little vague, but there is an association between Sodom and ‘sodomy’, so its easy to jump to conclusions. The men of the city surround Lot’s house and demand to see the two men (angels) ‘that we may know them’… Lot asks them to ‘do not so wickedly’ and tells them to take his own two virgin daughters instead of the male visitors – ‘do ye to them as is good in your eyes’.
The angels stand up for themselves, and blind the men of Sodom, then decide to destroy the city ‘because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD’
Lot, his wife and his daughters (mercifully) are told to leave the city quick, before it’s destroyed, but ‘look not behind thee’. So they skedaddle, but as the ‘LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ Lot’s wife carelessly turns around to watch and ‘she became a pillar of salt’.
Lot then has to escape to a cave with only his daughters for company (more of that later).
1. The LORD is aware of your thoughts, and I have a feeling he might have something in for Sarah. But, he is promising her a son, despite her having gone through menopause.
2. Sodom & Gomorrah’s sins are bad, as it seems they like to ‘know’ men, and that’s bad. But giving your daughters to them to do what they want is not such a bad sin.
3. The phrase is ‘brimstone and fire’ not ‘fire and brimstone’
4. It might seem pedantic, but how do they know Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt without looking round themselves? Did they realise she was gone, return at a later date, see the pillar of salt and say “that must be her”? Or is the disappearance of the wife into a pillar of salt symbolic for something that I’ve missed? Does she see God? Does she want to hang out with the bad men of Sodom?
“Lot’s Wife” pillar at Mount Sodom, Israel – does kind of look like a woman in a flowing dress.
Lot’s wife seems to be smiling at Sodom in her pillar-state. I like the topping over of the buildings by a top corner cloud blow.
This is satisfyingly over the top, and I like that Lot’s wife is struck by salt-lightning. There is drama and pomposity here.
One daughter looks bored, she must be teenage. The other has some sort of spinning thing and some keys and a wee box. Lot appears to have a hot water bottle on his back. There is not a lot of drama, or pomposity here.
Durer drew a portrait of van Leyden, I guess they were friends. This painting combines the destruction and the following episode of Lot and his daughters in the cave. Wine is flowing, cuddling is happening…..