CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)

Samson and Delilah

Oil on beech panel, 57 x 37 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The story of Samson and Delilah is one of the biblical and classical subjects that were seen to exemplify the power or wiles of women and as such were popular in medieval and Renaissance art and literature. The theme presented an admonitory and often humorous inversion of the male dominated sexual hierarchy. Lucas Cranach the Elder was the first northern artist to treat many of these subjects, found previously only in the decorative and graphic arts, in the elevated medium of panel painting.

The basic compositional model for the present painting was Lucas van Leyden's woodcut of about 1514.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 10 minutes):
Camille Saint-Saens: Samson et Delila, Delila's aria