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Object of the Month: May 2024

The Flight from Sodom

Oil on canvas, c. 1630

Matthias Stomer

Dutch, c. 1600–after 1649

Very little is known about the artistic training of Dutch master Matthias Stomer. His works have similarities to Gerrit van Honthorst and Abraham Janssens, both in M&G’s collection. He spent some time in Rome being influenced by Caravaggio as did many of his contemporary fellow artists. He seems to have settled in Sicily and painted many biblical subjects. Though some think M&G’s The Flight from Sodom is derivative of a Rubens’ work of the same title at the Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, Stomer simply tells the “rest of the story.”

Genesis 19 reveals that the escape of Lot and his family from Sodom has two stages. First, God warns Lot of the impending destruction of Sodom for its immorality and wickedness and tells him to gather his family and escape the fate of the city. Unfortunately, his efforts are rebuffed by his sons-in-law. The delay means he is still in the city at daybreak. Then he is commanded, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain.” But in fear, Lot begs to escape to a “little” city nearby rather than the mountain of God’s dictum. God mercifully allows this change, saving Zoar from destruction for Lot’s sake.

Stomer paints the second part of the drama: Lot’s negotiating his escape into Zoar. Lot’s wife is near the back of the group, signifying her growing reluctance to leave. Her faraway gaze shows her preoccupation with the past. She will eventually look back and be turned into a pillar of salt as punishment. In the foreground the blond daughter carries a basket of gold household items and engages the audience with a direct gaze. Is she asking for sympathy? For approval of her father’s plan? She definitely challenges the viewer to contemplate the event. The other daughter, mostly hidden, carries a cloth bundle on her head. She gazes straight ahead, intent on escaping with her life.

Lot clutches his red robe to him. Is he facilitating his gait or visually showing his reluctance to leave by grasping the rich garment that indicates his prominence? His raised eyebrows indicate a question for the leading angel. His open left palm indicates that the question asked is reasonable, almost a “what about?” gesture. The lead angel looks astonished at the request, mirroring Lot’s hand position with one hand while pointing definitively forward with the other, as if to say, “You want to go there?” The second angel’s hand lies near his chin, like the professor’s “stroking his beard” as he considers a student’s idea. Lot suggests a change of plan, and the angels seem to have differing opinions on it.

It may be reading too much into the painting to see in the half-shaved little dog a lesson that Lot and his family are escaping by the “skin of their teeth.” However, the running dog has more sense than Lot who has dawdled at every turn of the story, even with his life at stake. Stomer’s background indicates that the family has taken all night to leave the city (Genesis 19:16 states that the angels had to “set him without the city”). The morning has come—the time when Lot finishes his “flight” since “the sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar” (19:23). Ironically, even Stomer doesn’t finish the story. Lot and his daughters eventually find Zoar inhospitable, and the evil that Lot dreaded “in the mountain” comes to pass.

Dr. Karen Rowe Jones, M&G board member

 

Special Note:

Scholars have discovered that Stomer used “Naples yellow,” a color created by combining antimony and lead. First mentioned in the late 17th century, Naples yellow appears in Stomer’s early work. Determining whether the blond daughter’s robe uses Naples yellow, might facilitate dating The Flight from Sodom within Stomer’s oeuvre.

Botticelli, Michela, Costanza Miliani, Eva Luna Ravan, Claudia Caliri, and Francesco Paolo Romano. 2024. “Naples Yellow Revisited: Insights into Trades and Use in 17th-Century Sicily from the Macro X-ray Fluorescence Scanning of Matthias Stomer’s ‘The Mocking of Christ’” Heritage 7, no. 3: 1188-1201. https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage7030057

 

Published 2024

 

 

M&G Collections Online

As we continue to make more works available online, survey some of the paintings and objects in M&G’s collection. Click on the images below to enjoy videos, articles, and audio stops.

 

The Collection

The Old Master Painting Collection

The Museum & Gallery’s Old Master painting collection provides a rare viewer experience outside European cities and metropolitan areas with beautiful masterworks by recognized artists and their students—all of which are aesthetically exhibited with period furniture, sculpture, and tapestries to lend a period ambiance to the galleries and give patrons a panoramic view of ages past.  Of special note, M&G’s baroque paintings represent some of the most important artists and their works in the country.

The Collection is one of the largest and most interesting collections of European Old Master paintings in America. These works of art from the 14th through the 19th centuries beautifully trace the religious, artistic, and cultural history of Western Europe. Included are important works of many major artists such as Vannuccio, Botticelli, Cranach, Gerard David, Rubens, van Dyck, Reni, Domenichino, Guercino, Murillo, Ribera, Honthorst, and Doré. For a glimpse, view this virtual tour.

Patrons can also enjoy M&G’s Bowen Collection of Antiquities with artifacts that span 37 centuries and represent every day life from ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Hebrew cultures; and the Benjamin West Collection, a series of paintings housed in the War Memorial Chapel.

M&G’s Russian Icon Collection, which dates from the 14th through 20th centuries and includes several icons once owned by members of the Romanov family, the last tsars of Russia.

While not all of the collections are available online, we continue to add more monthly. You can see some of the individual works and objects through articles, short video clips, and audio stops. OR view the variety of Collection objects currently available online here.

Explore the Collection

Old Master paintings can be overwhelming sometimes with their detailed beauty, serious palette, and historical roots. But they don’t have to be, which is why M&G created the EXPLORE pages—a diversion on our website to unfold some of the mystery and meaning in the art of the past. Watch, listen, read, and color your way through the world of Old Masters!

Click on the links below to investigate for yourself:

 

Object of the Month: May 2024
The Collection
Scavenger Hunts
Collection on View
ArtBreak: Past Series
M&G Objects on Loan
Watch This!
A Closer Look
History in Pictures
M&G Coloring Pages
Think on These Things
From the Director
M&G Kids

Collection on View

View Works from the Museum & Gallery Collection

While the Museum & Gallery is closed to the public and unable to offer public viewing hours, we continue removing the collection in preparation for moving to a new building and new location. Meanwhile, you can still see selected paintings and objects on display in these campus locations:

 

Gustafson Fine Arts Center: Atrium

Public Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 AM-5 PM or by tour request

Luther’s Journey: Experience the History is a focus exhibition featuring paintings from M&G’s internationally respected Old Master collection.  Take a closer look at the man, Martin Luther, by understanding more about his life’s circumstances during the Renaissance (1500s)—a plague circling Europe, the scarcity and inaccessibility of books, the normalcy of illiteracy, and the exacting authority of church and state. Luther’s life journey reminds us that ordinary people can be used by God to inspire extraordinary and enduring change.

 

War Memorial Chapel

Open only by appointment or tour request

The Benjamin West Collection
The seven, monumental paintings that hang in the War Memorial Chapel constitute the largest assemblage today of works by Benjamin West, the father of American painting.

 

Mack Library

Public Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 AM-5 PM

View several Medieval and Renaissance objects from M&G’s collection, including a 16th-century Antiphonary, a 15th-century keepsake box made of bone, and more!

Visiting Museums

The Value of Visiting a Museum

Below the image, click play to listen.

 

Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University

Currently, M&G is not offering public viewing hours while we pursue a new building and location.

Located on the campus of Bob Jones University, M&G has been open and accessible to the public since 1951 and a separate, independent 501(c)3 non-profit entity governed by its own board of directors since 1996. While the Collection’s primary focus is European Old Master paintings, it also displays nearly 200 pieces of Gothic to nineteenth-century furniture, approximately 100 works of sculpture, some 60 textiles, nearly 50 Russian and Greek icons, over 1,000 ancient artifacts, and approximately 130 architectural elements that range from stained glass windows to fireplace mantels.

Prior to 2017, there was also a satellite location, M&G at Heritage Green. If you would like to learn more about the building and the current Heritage Green campus, visit here.

Please consider supporting our collection and work  by making a gift here.

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