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Cornelis van Poelenburgh

Lot and His Daughters


Cornelis van Poelenburgh
Utrecht 1594/95 – Utrecht 1667


Lot and His Daughters


1632 (?)


Oil on wood


35.5 x 51.8 cm


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, inv. 2014.74


Western Art

Known for his cabinet paintings, Poelenburgh executed Arcadian landscapes on wood or copper peopled with biblical or mythological characters portrayed against backgrounds of light-filled ruins or caves. He belonged to the first generation of Dutch Italianate painters, who owe their renown to works that are remarkable for their polished technique, elegant execution and colour harmonies. Its subject based on a story in the Bible (Genesis 19:30-38), the painting shows Lot and his daughters in a cave, where they have taken shelter. The daughters make their father drunk, in order to have him commit double incest and thus perpetuate their people. In accordance with the iconographic tradition, in the distance the artist has depicted Lot’s wife, transformed into a pillar of salt after having turned round to look back at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah go up in flames. Chiaroscuro is used here with great effectiveness, emphasizing the sensuality of the porcelain-pale nude body of Lot’s daughter in the composition’s foreground. If the depiction of light at the entrance to a cave and in the natural arches of the landscape recalls Poelenburgh’s time in Italy, the paintings characterized by such effects are from the years following his return to Utrecht.

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