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In retaliation for Samson’s single-handed decimation of their army, the Philistines bribed his lover Delilah to discover the source of his strength: his hair, uncut since birth. Samson’s hair was shorn as he lay sleeping in Delilah’s lap, draining his strength and allowing the Philistines to capture him. Honthorst intensified the inherent drama of the scene by limiting his depiction to just three closely packed figures, starkly illuminated by a single candle. The old woman’s silencing gesture involves the viewer in the action, making us complicit in Delilah’s deceit.

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Details

  • Title: Samson and Delilah
  • Creator: Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1590–1656)
  • Date Created: c. 1616
  • Physical Dimensions: Framed: 158.4 x 122.5 x 11.8 cm (62 3/8 x 48 1/4 x 4 5/8 in.); Case: 139.7 x 177.8 x 28 cm (55 x 70 x 11 in.); Unframed: 129 x 94 cm (50 13/16 x 37 in.)
  • Provenance: Possibly Marchése Tommaso Raggi [1595/6-1676], Genoa and Rome, and descendents, [possibly] in the collection of the Ruspoli family, Rome, until sold to an art dealer, (Dealer, Rome, sold to the Hazlitt Gallery), (Hazlitt Gallery, London, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1968.23
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Fun Fact: Flickering candlelight and a nocturnal setting enhance the furtive nature of Delilah's actions.
  • Department: European Painting and Sculpture
  • Culture: Netherlands
  • Credit Line: Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund
  • Collection: P - Netherlandish-Dutch
  • Accession Number: 1968.23

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