DYCK, Sir Anthony van
(b. 1599, Antwerpen, d. 1641, London)

Samson and Delilah

Oil on canvas, 152 x 232 cm
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

In his painting Samson and Delilah, Anthony van Dyck presents a moment filled with tension — a calm before a storm. Instead of depicting the climax of this Old Testament story, he represented the moment immediately before the action takes place. The heroic Samson is about to have his hair cut — removing the source of his superhuman strength. Lulled to sleep by his lover Delilah, the Philistine guards lie in wait ready to capture and imprison him as soon as the deed is done.

Van Dyck made his own deliberate variations on some of Rubens's most characteristic compositions of the first years after his return from Italy. Van Dyck's own interpretation of Samson and Delilah, one of his most imposing creations, would be unthinkable without the example of Rubens's portrayal of the same subject.

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