Samson and Delilah (Rubens)
|Artist||Peter Paul Rubens|
|Type||Oil on wood|
|Dimensions||185 cm × 205 cm (73 in × 81 in)|
|Location||National Gallery (London)|
|Artist||Peter Paul Rubens|
|Type||Oil on panel|
|Dimensions||50.5 cm × 52.1 cm (19.9 in × 20.5 in)|
|Location||Cincinnati Art Museum|
The painting depicts an episode from the Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16). Samson, having fallen in love with Delilah, tells her the secret of his great strength: his uncut hair. Rubens portrays the moment, when having fallen asleep on Delilah's lap, a servant proceeds to cut Samson's hair. After, a weakened Samson is arrested by Philistine soldiers. The soldiers can be seen in the right-hand background of the painting.
The old woman standing behind her, providing further light for the scene, does not appear in the biblical narrative of Samson and Delilah. She is believed to be a procuress, and the adjacent profiles of her and Delilah may symbolise the old woman's past, and Delilah's future.
The Philistine cutting Samson's hair has his hands crossed as he cuts, this is a sign of deceit.
The painting was sold when Rockox died in 1640, eventually forming part of the Liechtenstein Collection in Vienna, Austria, in the eighteenth century, along with another Rubens painting, Massacre of the Innocents.
There has been some doubt cast over the attribution of the painting to Rubens, led by the artist and scholar of Fayum portraits Euphronsyne Doxiades. She argues that it varies in details from copies of the original made during Rubens' lifetime, that it does not employ the layering technique of glazing common in oil painting at the time and mastered by Rubens, and that its provenance can not be documented with certainty between 1641 and 1929. A dendrochronological examination of the painting, however, confirms that the painting dates to the correct period, and the attribution has been accepted by a majority of the art historical scholarly community.
The painting was cleaned and investigated in the National Gallery in 1983. It is noteworthy for the masterful and elaborate painting of the draperies and for the absence of blue pigments. Rubens employed carmine (kermes) lake, lead-tin-yellow, vermilion and ochres in addition to lead white and charcoal black.
- Plesters, J. ‘”Samson and Delilah”: Rubens and the Art and Craft of Painting on Panel’. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 7, 1983, pp 30–49.
- Rubens, Samson and Delilah, ColourLex
- Christopher Brown Rubens’ Samson and Delilah, London: National Gallery, 1983
- Samson and Delilah at the National Gallery, London
- Samson and Delilah at the Web Gallery of Art
- Article about the controversy at Salon.com
- AfterRubens.com, the Site of Euphronsyne Doxiades
- A self-published Geocities page about the painting
- Rubens, Samson and Delilah, at ColourLex