Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | June 23, 2010

Lot and His Daughters

Oedipus denominated man as himself in the face of a sphinx, postulating human life as continuous temporal sequence.

Hegel asserts the answer of Oedipus as inevitable in history.

“What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is only related to objects, and not to individuals, or to life.” (M.F., On the Genealogy of Ethics)

Lot and his daughters by Lucas Van Leyden in Lauvre Paris

Story of ‘Lot and His daughters’ is one of the incest. In bible story is narrated in Genesis Genesis 19:30-38. When angels were destroying the city of Sodom they warned Lot to save himself from the catastrophe. Lot escapes to mountains with his two daughters. In Genesis 19:30-38, Lot’s daughters who in their mind were taking responsibility to bear children to preserve Lot’s family line, got their father drunk enough to have sexual intercourse with them on two consecutive nights, with each becoming pregnant. The first son was named Moab (Hebrew, lit., “from the father” [meh-Av]). He was the patriarch of the nation known as Moab. The second son was named Ammon or Ben-Ammi (Hebrew, lit., “Son of my people”). He became the patriarch of the nation of Ammon. New testament constantly rejects this sin. In Luke 17:32 Jesus simply says “Remember Lot’s Wife” using her as a warning to professing Christians to not turn back to their sin after leaving it. Many other passages are in New testament that teach Christians not to look backward.

This story became a hot subject for artists in 14th century. Lot and his daughters painted by Lucas Van Leyden is one of the most talked about painting on this Biblical subject. Many other great masters too have painted this subject among them are Bernardo Cavallino, Benifazio de Pitati, Guido Reni, Orazio Gentileschi , Jan Muller, Gustave Courbet,Hendrik Goltzius, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, some in reverence hiding the subject’s eroticism while some in its real explicit narrative. After Lucas Van Leyden, Orazio Gentileschi’s Lot and Daughter is recognized most important work not only because of its different rendering but also because of the technique and the material he used.

Lot and His Daughters, 1963 by Indian artist Souza is altogether a different painting. Souza’s ‘lot and his daughters’ is a contemporary image that rejects the hidden ‘Oedipus in each and every father. Daughters are defeating the ‘Oedipus’ in a fight with the father. The dhobiya pachar Indian kusti style has been used to depict the dangal. What is lacking in the painting is the aspects.  It has no aspect i.e. both psychological and Biblical interpretation is missing. Souza flatly says no to the ‘Oedipus’ like a conservative orthodox Christian. Christian family system is structured on Oedipalization itself and the Biblical mythic story links with it. He refuses to contemplate on it and to go inside the subject. What is contemporary in his canvas ‘lot and his daughters’? just think from the both point of view and you will find nothing. Souza is good in his erotic paintings; even in his landscapes he is unique and wonderful but in these kinds of subjects he is always a conservative and a backward painter.

In ‘lot and his daughters’ Souza does not show any artistic sergicality and the sympathy towards the instinctual; its varied facets. He is said to be a painter of libido and its psychology though, but when subject like ‘Lot and his daughter’ demands it; he simply sides with orthodoxy-this is his subjective position. Where does this psychoanalytical painter miss? What is lacking in him? In his works nothing is psychological in reality (even in his erotic works-what has been interpreted as Freudian-psychological is a shallow and vulgar kind of psychological. If he could not perceive psychological in the lot story then we should not expect anything psychological from him.) perhaps because he lacks contemplative and interpretive mind as we see in this painting. Basically he was a petty-bourgeois hopscotch painter with no understanding of such mythic subjects. He shows divinatory sympathy towards Jesus of new testament and his ethics “don’t look towards what Lot’s Wife did”-that every orthodox christian do.

Lot and his daughters by F.N.Souza, 1985

Souza did not go a little bit into the psychology of the nomads. Lot and his daughters is a story of a nomad community( that possibly existed in 500-800 ad). Nomad psychology is not defined by taboo, their consciousness is free flowing consciousness; their sexuality is original’ pre-genital-incestuous sexuality. Artists need to enter in to the subject to paint it properly and  to go beyond generality. Undoubtedly, these kinds of subjects demand contemplation. In the Lot story incest has been performed under the larger theological setup provided by old testament. Its theological interpretation itself might have given him something extraordinary to paint . But as a modernist Souza did not think anything; he does not side with the artistic intelligence which liberates by thinking the impossible; he sides  rather with the orthodoxy. He should have at least pursued the theological aspect of the story if he had had no idea of modernist discourses on Oedipus to produce a beautiful work of art. He did not go for it, perhaps, he had no such vision or idea; he reacted literally as a fearful religious man. What is ‘modern’ in his work then? He was a truly petty-bourgeois modernist;the level of consciousness is so poor.

"Nude with Mirror," 1963. oil on canvas

“Nude with Mirror,” 1963. oil on canvas

In Indian contemporary art artists render religious/ mythological subjects in two ways either they would be reactionary (not truthfully reactionary ) or devotional essentially supporting the disciplinary society (Husain is reactionary in these kinds of works, he reacts in favor of political opposition’s demand while Souza is an orthodox Christian concerning Biblical subjects). Indian Artists don’t go in the discourses, in thinking and in the process of conceptualization. I feel sad after knowing that majority of contemporary artists are not serious and have no vision. What kind of art production can survive in the market is the real concern not the painting. why Souza remain conservative? because of the orthodox Christian Bourgeois, his buyers in London did not like critical stuffs on Christian themes. He was funded by British art council that promoted Christianity through modern art discourses. Husain painted nude Hindu god and goddesses because of British art council demand while in his work Christ is always depicted liberator God. You have to be a good guy, bourgeois don’t like criticism . Alas!!

—This is a draft article to be completed. Written in a disorganized way article criticizes the petty-bourgeois aestheticism and its non-productivity though in the name of late Souza.




  1. Hey, very nice article. Interesting reads. Its more complex now.

  2. but its serious issue. why people want? what kind of people? isn’t it a bestiality? or is it some racist thing to preserve pure blood.

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