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The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha




The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha


About 1610 (?)


Oil on wood


41.6 x 91.2 cm


Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, inv. 1962.1332


Western Art

The dramatic story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah can be found in Genesis 19, where God punishes the cities with “fire and brimstone” due to the apparent moral depravity of their citizens, promising to save only Lot and his family. It was a fairly popular subject with artists at the beginning of the seventeenth century, as it offered a multitude of creative opportunities. The present work was long thought to be by the French artist Nomé, who spent his career in Naples. While the work shows the influence of Nomé, especially in the architecture, that the artist includes strong landscape elements indicates he may have in fact been Flemish. There are also affinities between this painting and those with similar subjects by artists working in Rome under the influence of the German painter Elsheimer. The smouldering tower surrounded by the emanating glow of Sodom ablaze is the focus of the present painting. The almost romantic portrayal of the subject through light and shadow is indicative of Elsheimer’s influence. The bright flames in contrast to the surrounding misery and gloom evoke an unsettling tone. In the foreground, two angels are seen leading Lot away from the wreckage, while his wife is seen in profile, already turning into a pillar of salt for sneaking a last look at the city, against the orders of the angels.

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