Lot and his Daughter
(Johann M Rottmayr von Rosenbrunn)


Johann Michael Rottmayr was the first important figure to emerge from the high baroque in Austria and Bohemia. He received his initial training in the Venetian studio of Carl Loth, one of the most important workshops in the second half of the seicento  He then returned in 1688 to his hometown of Laufen, near Salzburg, where he worked until 1690 when he moved to Salzburg. His tenure with Loth must have helped him to secure commissions, as Loth was by the late seventeenth century the most influential disseminating figure in the development of the Italian high baroque style in the art of Central Europe. In the first decade of Rottmayr’s Central European career, he was active on large fresco commissions for various Schlösser belonging to the noble families of Althann in Frain (Vranov) in Suedmaehren (1695), and predominantly for the archbishop of Salzburg; Johann Ernst, Graf Thun (fl. 1687-1709). Additionally, he executed altarpieces and frescoes for several churches and palaces in Salzburg and environs,  in Passau, and in the important Cistercian Church of the Holy Cross near Vienna. Rottmayr’s first important large altarpiece commission dates from 1691 for the Striftskirche in Michaelbeuern, north of Salzburg, and marks the real beginning of his international career. He specialised in profane subjects, both of historical or mythological narratives, but was also prolific in Old Testament scenes as well and produced many of these as overdoors for palaces.


Around the 1690’s, themes dealing with allegorical interpretation of virtue or vice appear to have sparked his artistic imagination and in the later part of the decade his work appears to largely develop around this interest. At this time Rottmayr launched himself towards the  production of a series of interpretations of Lot  with his daughters and these, while retaining all the narrative elements of  the story, focus more on the moral and sexual fallout of Lot’s escape with his daughters from God’s terrible judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorra. Lot’s unfortunate wife, who had turned despite the prohibition, now solidified into a pillar of  salt, is just visible in the backgound at the upper right.  Lot’s daughters ply their unsuspecting father with wine in an effort to dupe and seduce him into making them with child, any other prospects now apparently dead in the wake of God’s wrath (Genesis 19.32). Two other versions of this subject by Rottmayr are known. These are a canvas in the Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Inv. NR. 1151; presently in the Barockgalerie in Augsburg (oil on canvas, 155 x 125 cm.; Hubala, Rottmayr, fig. 46); and a second identical composition, in the Augustiner-Chorherrenstift in Klosterneuberg, just outside Vienna (oil on canvas, 156 x 129 cm: exhibited Salzburg, 2004, no. 55). The present version differs in several important respects from the Augsburg and the Klosterneuberg canvases: the poses of the daughters are identical in all three versions – the daughter on the left proffers wine, the other to the right appears to focus on Lot with clear seductive intent. In both canvases, the nearly incoherent drunkenness of Lot is the central focus of the narration. In the present picture, however, this basic formula is lent a frisson of tenderness and emotional sophistication by the more intimate gaze of the daughter sitting in the foreground, who seems to seek out a tender eye contact with her semi-conscious father. This detail adds a more humanistic aspect to what is a rather sinister narrative. Stylistically in his approach to anatomy, Rottmayr is still dependent in this canvas on his teacher Loth. To understand just how closely Loth and Rottmayr compared during this period, it is useful to note another canvas of the same subject from the Buquoy collection in Schloss Rosenberg in Slovakia (see Hubala, Rottmayr, 1981, 232, no. NG 24, fig. 462). Temporal proximity and thus stylistic relationship, is also evident in a Tarquin and Lucretia dated to 1692 from the collection of a Bohemian noble family, an Abel (Österreichische Galerie) and a Sacrifice of Isaac in the Grazer Joanneum (Hubala, Rottmayr, 1981, Abb.31f., 39f.). Loth’s Roman-classical background, with its influences of Cortona and Poussin, should also be assumed to have played a decisive role in the development of Rottmayr’s style and approach to allegorical and moral subjects. Nevertheless in his rich pictorial surfaces, with their density of surface expression, and brilliant colouristic effects, Rottmayr in these 1690s works begins to break ranks here, and involve not only the Roman Cortonesque but also the Flemish high baroque of Rubens in the development of his style. Rottmayr, it must be assumed, had had contact with Flemish painting since 1693 such as the Decius Mus cycle of Rubens and the Flemish paintings in the princely collections of Liechtenstein collection in Vienna, and the imperial collections in Prague and Vienna.


LITERATURE: E. Hubala, Johann Michael Rottmayr, Vienna and Munich 1981; W. Prohaska, in: H. Lorenz (ed.), Geschichte der Bildenden Kunst in Osterreich. Barock,  London and New York, 1999, pp. 386ff., 427ff.; Exhib. cat.,  Johann Michael Rottmayr: Genie der barocken Farbe, Laufen-Salzburg, 2004

156 x 125 cm
Oil on canvas

Private Collection, Sweden


Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni, ‘Padri e figli’, 13th May-7th October 2018

Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Religious: Old Testament
German - Austrian
Price band
$350,000 - $500,000