The story of Lot, nephew of Abraham, and his flight from the city of Sodom is told in Genesis (19: 1-28). Two angels, to whom Lot had given hospitality for the night, warned him that God was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sinfulness, and urged him to flee with his wife and two daughters. The angels warned them not to look behind them as they left “lest they be consumed.” Lot’s wife did not heed their advice and, upon looking back, was turned into a pillar of salt. This painting depicts the moment before this happens, as the angels are seen literally pushing the family along as one daughter frantically gathers food and valuables in a basket, while the other has bundled other belongings in a rug which she carries on her head. Lot’s wife weeps and pulls away from him as he tries to persuade her to come with them. Maes touchingly captures the anguish and confusion of the moment.
This painting is likely the picture sold in the 1811 sale (see Provenance) as by Ferdinand Bol, another artist in Rembandt’s circle. It seems to have remained under that name as it appeared as such in the 1914 Griscom collection sale in New York (see Provenance), where it was purchased by the Vanderlip family. Franklin Robinson, in 1977 (see Literature), first linked the painting to Maes when he related it to a drawing of the same subject, then ascribed to Maes (but now given to Justus de Gelder, Maes’s stepson) in the Abrams collection.1 In his important publications on the Rembrandt School, Werner Sumowski (see Literature) published The Flight of Lot as a work by Nicolas Maes and dated it to circa 1675-80, relating it stylistically to another work from this period, The Sick Woman, formerly in the Corcoran Gallery of Art , Washington, D.C., and now in the National Gallery of Art. 2 León Krempel, in his monograph on Maes (see Literature), and based on an old black and white photograph, questioned the attribution to Maes, though compared the curly-haired angels and the painterly treatment of the draperies to Maes’s portrait style of circa 1679-86. However, having recently seen good images of the painting, Krempel has stated that he is inclined to accept The Flight of Lot as a work by Maes, pending further research. We are also grateful to Volker Manuth who has endorsed the attribution of this painting to Maes, on the basis of photographs.
1. See F.W. Robinson, under Literature, p. 79., in the Maida and George Abrams collection.
2. See W. Sumowski, under Literature, p. 2025, cat. no. 1382, reproduced p. 2108.
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