Samson and Delilah - Jacob Matham - 1609 - 1611

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Samson and Delilah

Jacob Matham
Jacob Matham (publisher)
Peter Paul Rubens (ontwerper)
1609 - 1611
473.0 mm x 401.0 mm
Inventory number: 
Museum Plantin-Moretus/ Print Room
17th century

This Biblical scene depicts Samson, sleeping on Delilah’s lap, while his hair is being cut by a Philistine. The invincible Samson thus loses his strength, which resided in his hair, and is defeated. An old woman sheds light with a candle. Soldiers are at the ready in the doorway to take Samson prisoner.
Rubens painted the work shortly after his return from Italy on commission of Nicolaas Rockox, the Mayor of Antwerp. The original painting can be found in the National Gallery in London. There is also an oil sketch of the painting in the Museum in Cincinnati. Although the engraving presents a number of details that are not present in the oil sketch but are in the painting, the oil sketch or a drawing after it seems to be the basis for this engraving. This engraving is the only known print of Jacob Matham after a painting by Rubens. Although for Rubens the effect of light and the chiaroscuro contributed to the dramatics in certain parts, this is somewhat lacking in Matham’s print. He dedicated the print to Rockox; it may have been made with his approval. The absence of Rubens’ privilege indicates that the initiative to make this engraving did not come from Rubens. It was only at a later stage that Rubens developed interest in disseminating his work by means of prints.