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Samson and Delilah

Peter Paul Rubens's Samson and Delilah portrays a tragedy of love and betrayal. Delilah, Samson's lover, has been bribed to discover the secret of Samson's supernatural strength. Rubens shows the moment when Delilah tells an accomplice to cut his hair, leaving him powerless. Outside, soldiers wait to capture him.

But maybe Delilah will pay for her treachery. The profile of the old woman behind her is a striking but withered likeness of her own, perhaps suggesting that she will one day lose the beauty that was Samson's downfall.

During a visit to Italy, Rubens had seen Caravaggio's experiments in the use of highly contrasting light and shade, and deep, rich colour. On his return, he used these...

c. 1609-10
Oil on wood
185.0 x 205.0cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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