Samson was a Biblical hero renowned for his strength in the Israelites’ struggle for independence against the Philistines. His mistress Delilah persuaded him to reveal that his strength would fail if his hair was cut. She then had his head shaved while he was asleep. The Philistines are here seen binding the enfeebled warrior before the delighted, vindictive Delilah. Violent in action and passion, skilful in anatomy and composition, and rich in colour and brushwork, this is a rare British example of the type of pictures which were the sensations of contemporary art exhibitions in late 19th-century Paris.


  • Title: Samson
  • Creator: Solomon J Solomon
  • Date Created: About 1887
  • tag / style: Solomon J Solomon; Biblical; Samson; Delilah; hero; strength; Israelites; Philistines; mistress; hair; shaved; binding; enfeebled; vindictive; violent; action; passion; skilful; story; narrative; anatomy; sensation; woman; rope
  • Physical Dimensions: w3658 x h2438 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Solomon was born in London and lived there initially. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools, at the Heatherley School of Art and then in Munich and Paris. He combined a career as a portraitist with painting dramatic Biblical and mythological scenes. He was still in his twenties when he showed Samson at the Universal Exhibition held in the French capital in 1889. Solomon was one of a large number of British art students to study in Paris in the early 1880s. From their French training they acquired academic skills in representing the nude - even when contorted in difficult poses - and in organising complicated, multi-figure compositions. A very few of them, notably Solomon, also gained a taste for the sensational and violent scenes then popular in the major Parisian exhibitions. Remarkably, Solomon was also the originator of the camouflage system used by the British forces during the Great War, introducing fishing net as the basis of an effective system, as well as the ‘dazzle’ painting of tanks and guns.
  • Additional artwork information: ‘Samson’ was painted when Solomon was only 27 years old, in his new studio in London’s Holland Park. At that time he was starting to gain a reputation, especially as a portrait painter. Millais visited the artist in his studio whilst he was painting ‘Samson’ and was surprised that such a large picture could be painted in a small studio. 'Samson' caused a stir when exhibited at the Royal Academy and became Solomon’s best known painting. He may have been attracted to the theme owing to his Jewish origins. However, the artist departed from the Bible (Judges 16: 21), according to which Samson was bound by the Philistines at Gaza and not, as in the painting, in the presence of Delilah. Solomon’s sources probably included Rubens’s ‘Taking of Samson’ in Munich. To learn more about this painting, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/19c/solomon.aspx
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Presented to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee by Eustace Harrison in 1887

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