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Painting of the Week: Samson and Delilah

This work by Rembrandt, Samson and Delilah, is characteristic of the artist’s ability to capture the narrative behind his paintings.

When Samson tells Delilah the secret to his superhuman strength, that he doesn’t cut his hair to uphold his vow to God, Delilah deceives him.

Unlike other artists, Rembrandt painted Samson kneeling into Delilah’s lap, as well as a sash around his waist as a symbol of his “fate being sealed.” The true action, however, is in Delilah’s gesture. With one hand she is stroking Samson’s hair, and with the other pointing at it—an act of betrayal. The two men in the background are seen ready to cut off his braids. Their weapons are drawn, whereas Samson’s is sheathed, a sign of his defenselessness.

The viewer’s eyes move upward as if taken through the narrative, each piece of the story in perfect succession.

After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. — Judges 16:19

Artist: Rembrandt

Year: Between 1629 and 1630

Location: Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

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Read more about this piece and browse other sacred art in the Verbum app.

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