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Peter Paul Rubens - Samson and Delilah

by Alexanda Tuschka

What is happening here must be done secretly! If Samson, who is known as the strongest man in the Bible, were to wake up, he could probably crush the lurking traitors with his bare hands. But he has fallen asleep. His head lies in the lap of Delila, his beloved, who can be seen here brightly illuminated in the left picture background.

The Philistine Delilah had previously tricked Samson into revealing where his strength came from - his hair. And so she decided to cut off Samson's hair in the night to give the Philistines, her allies but his enemies, the chance to weaken him and capture him. Rubens shows the drawn scissors in the hands of a barber. The intertwined hands are rarely skillfully staged by Rubens, who was only 31 years old at the time, and may also be symbolic of the entangled nature of the situation. An old servant not only illuminates the scene with candlelight, but also her own wrinkled face. Delila, on the other hand, seems almost sad. She appears exhausted and passive. Her head posture resembles that of the statue of Venus in the background. This is reminiscent of the power of women and the seductions of women. The flat red is also related to this. Under the robe, a carpet of precious materials spreads out.

Samson's muscular back arches; even in sleep, the well-formed muscles are still clearly visible. Samson's imposing height extends giant-like into the depth of the picture. There, hidden and huddled fearfully behind a doorframe, a few Philsites have gathered, waiting for their cue. Their faces are illuminated by a torch. In addition, they hold stakes in their hands with which they would soon blind Samson.The painting was created around 1609 for the great hall of the Antwerp city palace of the councilor Nicolaas Rockox.

Peter Paul Rubens - Samson and Delilah

Oil on wood, c. 1609, 185 x 205 cm, National Gallery in London


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