Lucas Cranach I depicted the theme of Lot and his Daughters in only four known related works, of which the present is the only one to remain in private ownership. All four depictions date from the same period: the earliest, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, from 1528; another, dated 1529, is in the Staatsgalerie, Aschaffenburg; and the last, dated 1533, is in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. Dr. Dieter Koepplin dates the present composition to circa 1530, which period is also supported by Dr. Max Friedländer in his monograph on the artist (loc. cit.). This picture also therefore represents the last privately owned example of the subject within Cranach's related depictions of the theme of 'Weibermacht' that links so many masterpieces within his oeuvre.
The seduction and overpowering of Lot by his daughters was one of the number of pictorial representations on the theme of 'Weibermacht' or the power of women over man, in the late Middle Ages, during which period a large body of literature, including sermons, romantic poems, troubadour songs and plays concerning the theme had appeared. Usually the stories of woman's domination and man's subjugation involved specific famous couples, such as Samson and Delilah or Aristotle and Phyllis. Superior men who were either very powerful or extremely wise were selected as victims to emphasize the inevitability of woman's domination. The author or artist wishing to prove his point could choose from a rich array of males, be they heroic and wise, or villainous, including Adam, Holofernes, Solomon, Sisera, Naboth, Virgil, John the Baptist, Lot, Joseph, Absalom, Hercules, amongst others. The entire incident could be portrayed as either a mild humorous satire on the war between the sexes or as a strong indictment against all involvement with women.
Representations of such themes existed singly or with other subjects from the thirteenth century, appearing on church architectural decoration, ivories, aquamaniles, marriage caskets, tapestries, stained glass and manuscript illuminations. During the second half of the fifteenth century, both painters and goldsmiths turned to engraving for the depiction of secular themes, which often included representations of the Weibermacht. In Germany, for example, the Master E.S., the Housebook Master, Master MZ (Matthaus Zaisinger) and others made engravings of Samson and Delilah, Aristotle and Phyllis and Solomon's Idolatry. It was, however, the second decade of the sixteenth century that saw the greatest burst of interest in the theme by printmakers. In addition to engraving, painters took to the designing of woodcuts to represent scenes with such bawdy or gruesome appeal to a mass audience. This interest was probably stimulated by the satirical warning against folly common to much late-fifteenth-century writing, for example Brant's Ship of Fools (first published in 1494), Ersamus's In Praise of Folly (1511) and Thomas Murner's Exorcism of Fools and Guild of Rogues (1512). Certainly indicative of the widespread appeal is the 1511 procession at Metz recorded by Philippe de Vigneulles in his Chronicle of Matz for the years 1471-1522, in which were floats carrying characters of Solomon and one of his wives, Samson and Delilah, Virgil in a basket and the straddled Aristotle.
It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that from about 1512-1520 Cranach and his most of his contemporaries, including Hans Baldung Grien, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Burgkmair, Ambrosius Holbein, Urs Graf and Lucas van Leyden explored various aspects of the topic in their designs for woodcuts. The most notable exception being Dürer, who despite producing woodcuts of Adam and Eve, the Decollation of the Baptist and Salome with the Head of the Baptist, should not be included as those subjects were interpreted by him in ways other than as examples of the Power of Women; only in 1521 did he treat the theme in a single drawing for a mural, probably for Nuremberg Town Hall. If, however, this represented a trend, it is not possible to determine who began it, although perhaps its moste enthusiastic follower was van Leyden, for whom the theme held a particular appeal.
The only known depiction by the latter of the present subject is unrelated to the present composition, which appears to be of Cranach's own devising. However, it is certain that Cranach was aware of, and influenced by, van Leyden's work and it is therefore reasonable to note elements common to the present work and those of the latter: for example the figure of Hagar in his engraving of Abraham and Hagar (B. 17) or that of Delilah and the position of Samson legs in his woodcut of Samson and Delilah from the 'Small' Power of Women Woodcuts (B. 6). Certainly the link between the two artists becomes even stronger when one considers Cranach's Samson and Delilah of 1529 as an intermediary work between the same characters in Lucas' woodcut and the figures of Lot held by his daughter in the present painting. For the figure of the second daughter, pouring wine from a jug, there seems no certain precedent, although one of the closest known comparable contemporary images is in a small engraving of the subject (Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen) by the anonymous 'Master S', whose identity has been proposed as the Antwerp goldsmith Alexander van Brugsal.
The theme of 'Weibermacht' and its attendant moral warning for man not to succumb to emotion was one that was held in high currency by Cranach's contemporaries, for whom the less didactic potentials of the individual tales probably held as great an import as their underlying moral message - explaining, for example, the somewhat contradictory implications of some of the subjects grouped within the broader theme. Indeed it was probably due to court commissions that Cranach became the first painter to raise these subjects to the dignity of panel painting, of which they had not previously been considered worthy. So, for example, a series depicting, amongst others, Salome, Hercules and Omphale, Cupid as a Lion-tamer, Venus and Cupid, the Judgement of Paris and Lucretia, was commissioned to represent the theme of 'dass einst die Frauen alles vermochten' from Cranach in 1513 for the marital bed of Duke Johann of Saxony.