by Frauke Maria Petry
The scene depicted has its origin in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament. Loth is alcoholized by his daughters after escaping from burning Sodom. Two nights in a row, one of the women sleeps with their father without him noticing. But the women are not concerned with sexual pleasure, but with offspring. They think the whole world has been wiped out and therefore there are no more future husbands.
In the work of Ambrosius Benson, besides the figures, the flames in the background, the wine jug and the exposed breast of one of the women refer to the events. In Renaissance and Baroque gallery paintings, the overtly lascivious motif is widespread. It combines eroticism with sin, drunkenness with excess.
The Bible cleverly reports the innocence of the father in incest, when he is rendered defenseless and seduced by his daughters under the influence of alcohol. Like the apple with Adam and Eve, here it is the wine through which the man is overcome by the sinners.
Feministically, the story seems to state that the first incest and rape in a family setting would be an act of women. Even today, most incestuous fathers claim that the daughter seduced them and wanted the sexual contact. That Loth has little regard for the welfare of his daughters becomes clear earlier in the story: to save his male guests from a criminal gang of men with homosexual urges (sodomy = boy lust), Loth offered his virgin daughters for mass rape.
It is striking that in various European children's and family Bibles of the 16th and 17th centuries the scene of the offered rape is omitted or ends even before the cave scene. Thus, the family man cannot be discredited.
Ambrosius Benson - Loth and his daughters
Oil on oak, before 1550, Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf