From the safety of the cave where they have taken refuge, Lot’s daughters appear absorbed by an event taking place beyond the painting’s borders—God’s annihilation of the city of Sodom, burning in the distance. Believing that they alone survive to perpetuate the human race, the daughters have plied their father with alcohol, to aid their incestuous seduction of him. Each will later bear Lot a son: Moab and Ammon, the founders of tribes often pitted against Israel. Depictions of Lot and his Daughters were popular in seventeenth-century Europe because they provided a righteous context in which to illustrate a social taboo. However, the absence of nudity or palpable sensuality in this scene suggests that Gentileschi’s intentions were otherwise.

Gentileschi was born in Pisa, but settled in Rome in about 1576. From around 1600, he began to absorb the powerful naturalism of Caravaggio, subsequently becoming one of his closest and most successful followers. However, Gentileschi never gave himself over fully to the uncompromising Caravaggesque style, and maintained traits more characteristic of his native Tuscany; a poetic, refined aesthetic that incorporated a rich blend of highly pitched cool and warm colors.


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