Lot's Wife

Lot's Wife
Albrecht Dürer's Lot Fleeing with his Daughters from Sodom (1498), National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Sodom and Gomorrah - a fable for the ages

Apocalyptic stories flourish when times are bad. In the 1490's, following plagues and wars, many believed the end of the world was nigh as the year 1500 approached. Preachers attributed it to society's depravity - sodomy alone could bring down God's destructive power. If there was a fable that perfectly caught these sentiments it was Lot's flight from Sodom with his daughters, since the Biblical text could be interpreted to involve sodomy, prostitution, incest and drunkenness. It captivated many painters of the time, particularly the northern Europeans.

In the conventional telling of Genesis 19, one of the raciest chapters in the Bible, two angels warn Lot that he should escape Sodom before it is destroyed. The family is told they must not look back or they will be turned into pillars of salt. Unfortunately Lot's wife does so and that's her, abandoned in the middle ground.

Below is what happened later in the not-so-chaste Lot and his Daughters (1537) by Albrecht Altdorfer. Lot's daughters get their father drunk and seduce him in order to get themselves pregnant so as to continue the family name. Both daughters are successful. Sodom burns in the background...


The Altdorfer is in the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna.