This painting, by the French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (often shortened to just Camille Corot, c. 1796-1875), was inspired by the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed by fire raining down from the sky. In particular, the painting re-creates the story of Lot leading his family away from Sodom after he was warned of the city’s impending destruction by two angels. These angels told Lot that he would be safe in the town of Zoar, and they warned him to not stop running before he and his family reached their destination. Most of all, however, the angels told him to, under no circumstances, allow himself or his family to look back on the burning city. Lot, unfortunately, would only be partially successful in carrying out the orders of the angels. The story can be found in the Book of Genesis: “By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:23-26, NIV translation). Such is the tale that Camille Corot represents in the painting featured above.
Written by C. Keith Hansley