after Rubens: the strange story of the Samson and Delilah

after Rubens Flash Movie
In 1609-10 Rubens painted his Samson and Delilah. In 1980 the National Gallery in London paid a near record sum for what they believed to be the same painting.

Controversy has raged ever since, but whether it is genuine or not, what is most fascinating is the gulf dividing its supporters from its detractors: it's been called Rubens' greatest masterpiece, and it's been called rubbish.

Meanwhile, it has been named as one of only 30 'highlight paintings' in the national collection and is the centrepiece of a major new Rubens exhibition “A Master in the Making” - perfect timing, we think, for a review of the available evidence and an opening up of a narrow debate to an all-important audience: the public in Britain who own the painting, and lovers of Rubens around the world.

As we have shown in the flash movie, we believe that the balance of evidence weighs strongly against the attribution. However, in the absence of conclusive proof either way, we simply ask that you review the facts, examine the painting, and let us know how you see it.
06 December 2007 [view all news]
Exhibition from 16 November 2007 to 10 February 2008 [read]

New on afterRubens:
NEW: Frequently Asked Questions (Dec 15)
- PRESS: Is 'Samson en Delila' nu wel of geen Rubens? (NRC)


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"Congratulations for the taste that went into the..." [read]
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Samson and Delilah in the National Gallery, London
Samson and Delilah

The National Gallery painting fundamentally differs in composition from 2 surviving 17th century copies of Rubens' original painting. And there's more than the missing toes...

Samson and Delilah Engraving by Jacob Matham
Engraving by Jacob Matham

This engraving of Rubens' Samson and Delilah was made c. 1613, a few years after it was painted. Here it is has been mirrored for comparison with the National Gallery painting.

Supper at the house of Burgomaster Rockox, by Frans Francken II
Francken painting

This c. 1630 detail from a painting of Nicolaas Rockox's great hall, where Rubens' painting hung until 1640, joins Matham in depicting a complete foot. [More]
Style & handling   Provenance

Samson's EarYou may love or you may hate it but you are unlikely to find another ear quite like it in Rubens' surviving oeuvre.

To closely compare details from the Samson and Delilah with elements from undisputed Rubens paintings from the same period, view the Flash movie, or our developing Comparisons Tool.

More material of this kind as well as information of a more technical nature will appear in this section over the coming days. [More]

      The Samson and Delilah’s provenance – its whereabouts over the years – is complex and uncertain.

Reading the official sources, though, you’d be forgiven for thinking that things were relatively straightforward.

In reality, there are only two things of which we can be absolutely certain...[More]
 was created in October 2005