STOM, Matthias
(b. ca. 1600, Amersfoort, d. after 1650, Sicily)

Samson and Delilah

Oil on canvas, 99 x 125 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

This picture is considered one of the very few paintings that can be connected to the still problematic Roman period of this artist. On the basis of the parish lists of the church of San Nicola in Arcione, Stom is documented as having been in Rome in 1630-31: a decade of moving around in northern and southern Italy followed, finishing with his definitive move to Sicily in 1641.

Stom trained in the workshop that Honthorst established in Utrecht (near Stom's hometown of Amesfoort) upon his return from Rome in 1620. In his earliest works, the younger painter seems to have been most interested in the interpretation of Caravaggesque light effects through the use of artificial light sources. Compared to those of Honthorst, Stom's paintings are characterized by a more vivacious and harsh use of light; and by the more metallic tones in his chromatic range.

In Samson and Delilah the artist reduces the scene to its essential elements, setting all of the action in the foreground and organizing it in a triangular composition that is typical of his work. Following Caravaggesque precepts, the point of view is close and Samson's body presses up against the centre of the picture plane. His elbow points towards the spectator, almost transgressing our real space. The highly technical rendering of candlelight, which here originates from a point behind the male figure to the left (who functions almost as a stage-wing), is an interest Stom shares with his master Honthorst. In the later Sicilian works of his last decade Stom would abandon his preoccupation with artificial light, a fact that helps confirm the early date of this picture.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.