The Master of the Prodigal Son

Lot and his daughters

This painting was executed by a painter known only by the moniker ‘Master of the Prodigal Son’, who worked in Antwerp between 1530 – 1560 and seems to have had quite an extensive workshop. He was named after his most famous work, “The return of the prodigal son”, which now hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Although it is not known who the artist was, he is counted among the great masters of Flemish sixteenth-century mannerism, being featured in museums worldwide. 

The present work is almost identical to a painting with the same subject and the same size, currently in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp. However, due to the virtuosity of the underdrawing of the present version (which can be seen on infra-red photographs), it is believed that the museum version has to be dated as the later version of the two, making this painting the primary version. 

The painting depicts the story of Lot, who fled the city of Sodom after being warned by God of its imminent destruction. While in the wilderness, Lot was sedated with wine and seduced by his daughters. In the background, Sodom can be seen burning. Lot’s wife, who has turned into a salt pillar upon looking back to the city, can also be made out. In the foreground, a small still-life – a tazza with fruit – has been inserted. Together with the small see-through landscape of the burning city, these can be considered as the forerunners of the later independent painterly genres of landscape and still-life painting. 

 

Artist: The Master of the Prodigal Son (active in Antwerp ca. 1530 - 1560)
Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: 74 x 104 cm