top of page

Jodocus van Winghe - Delila's Betrayal and Samson's Capture

by Frauke Maria Petry

Jodocus van Winghe records the Old Testament story of the indomitable Samson as a kind of simultaneous representation of events: Delila elicits from her lover Samson the secret of the magical power whose source lies in his hair. The woman's exposed breast refers to the previous lovemaking.

Only rarely is the scene shown erotically. By cutting off the sleeping hero's curls, the Philistines can gouge out his eyes. The severed hair is the symbol of the victory of the female arts of seduction over the previously invincible. The act represents the castration of the man. The traitor is further burdened as the scissors continue to be used as a blinding instrument.

Delila appears victorious and her people triumph for a short time. But in captivity, Samson's hair grows back and he is able to destroy the Philistine temple at a festival. This is possibly referred to by the architecture, which is the scene of the action in the picture.

Delila has been cited as the depravity of woman at least since the Middle Ages. She stands for carnality, is the personification of vicious behavior. In the Bible, she is a harlot who cuts off the curls. In other traditions, she is the wife of Samson and a barber trims the hair. Delila is in the tradition of the 'femme fatale' (French for fatal woman), characterized by beauty, sensuality, intelligence, self-confidence, cunning and perseverance. She succeeds in overthrowing an indomitable man. It remains open whether she commits the betrayal for the money offered or to liberate her people.

Jodocus van Winghe - Delila's Betrayal and Samson's Capture

Oil on canvas, c. 1580, 215.5 x 243 cm, Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf


bottom of page