after Rubens: the strange story of the Samson and Delilah
 
 
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Part of what makes the Samson and Delilah so interesting as a work of art is the extreme disparity in the response it evokes from people - both those who have seen it perhaps just once, as well as scholars who may have studied it for half a lifetime.

Below you will find comments both for and against the attribution, as well as more general observations that visitors to the site have sent in. Please recommend the comments you find most interesting and let us know how you see it too.

You are viewing comments chronologically with the most recent first; you can also order them by the number of reader recommendations they have recieved.

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Submitted: 01 April 2006, 5:46:51 AM
  I found this site and the problems you raise more than interesting. In particular, your presentation is excellent especially because it is so specific and it could be used by teachers to suggest how to analyze the elements of any painting. Most impressive.

Your analysis has convinced me that there is indeed a problem here. Your comments about the amputated toes, the beard and the carpet certainly support your case. [As far as the missing toes are concerned, it is hard to explain why even a lazy painter would do this. The two copies of the original [lost?] painting are further cogent elements in your arguement.

In any case, do let my congratulate those who designed this site for their intelligence for a site that is outstanding for clarity and interest.

Finally, it's not clear to me why you people are doing this?

Thanks again.
Yours truly,
Luther Link
[author of THE DEVIL;A MASK WITHOUT A FACE, Reaktion books, London]

Luther Link, Professor, Kawasaki, JAPAN

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Submitted: 28 March 2006, 7:46:33 PM
  Aliens at the edge of the universe observing us through weak telescopes can see that this isn't by Rubens.

ross miller, london, uk

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Submitted: 25 March 2006, 10:09:51 AM
  I am a great fan of Rubens and after reading your site I cannot but agree with you. The painting truly is fake. It was definitely NOT painted by Rubens. I am apalled that nobody has noticed it before and that the painting has been sold for so much. Rainer Richter was right in saying somone wasted a lot of money for a bad copy....

Reene, Art Student, South Afrika

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Submitted: 14 March 2006, 9:07:37 AM
  Of course it is difficult to determine the true gradations of color and shadow from a photo measuring about 3" by 3", but from the photo provided, the painting seems to lack the gradations of color and tone, of light and shadow (or the absence of light) that characterize the paintings of Rubens. The overall impression of the photo posted here is that it is too light and too lacking in detail, too lacking in the intriguing, varying shadows that pull normally pull one into his paintings. There is too much contrast overall, no play between light and shadow. However, again, it must be noted that it is difficult to make a determination without having seen the original up close.

Tatiana, Professor , Moscow, Russia

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Submitted: 18 February 2006, 11:32:20 AM
  I'm not sure I agree with all the criticisms of the piece used in making the case that it is not a genuine Rubens. Much of the critique of the head modeling and skin texture mysifies me..no matter who painted these figures, he did a skillful job. The "waxiness" in the face of the old woman is attributable to the extreme lighting; the supposed crudity in the depiction of the ear is anything but - the ear displays excellent anatomical modeling, even if its paintstrokes are not overwhelmingly subtle. As a fan of Rubens, I can see no lack of anatomical ability on display in the main figures of this painting. It is simply painted in a slightly different lighting than most of Rubens' works.

That being said, there are two compelling aspects that give the painting away as the work of another artist--the cut-off toes and the crude statue in the background. I agree that these are telltale signs.

Rubens would never have cut off the feet of his protagonist..it wasn't just that Rubens enjoyed painting feet, but it's simply bad figure painting composition. In a historical or mythological painting one does not cut off the body parts of the hero. The entire body should be shown.

And the statue on the wall simply could not have been painted by Rubens. It isn't just that it's painted badly--which it undeniably is. It also depicts a raw-boned, small-waisted female figure that Rubens would never have idealized in a work of art.

The same is true, to a slightly lesser degree, of Delilah herself. Her lanky height and musculature are not a problem, but her feet are bony (by Rubens' standards). She also lacks a double chin, even though her head is bent in a position that would create a roll of flesh on a relatively slender face. And the beauties in Rubens' works (-indeed, in the works of most pre-20th Century artists) did not have slender faces. Rubens would never have missed the opportunity to give his Biblical seductress a fashionable Baroque double chin.

Also, consider Delilah's hand. Her hand is thick and muscular--it is the hand of a laborer, not a 17th century female prototype. Rubens would never have painted a female hand that looks like that. He would have either made the hand lilting and slender-fingered (as in his famous portraits of Helene Fourment) or he would have made the hand chubby and dimpled (as he often did when he let his sexual preferences dominate a human figure).

The painting is not by Peter Paul Rubens.

It may, however, have been sketched by him and painted by a lesser apprentice in his own studio. Or it could be the forgery of a modern artist.

Kevin Tuma, artist/cartoonist, Hillsboro, Texas, USA

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Submitted: 14 February 2006, 4:29:20 AM
  I think this website, although impressively put together, is missing the point. Whether or not the painting is by Rubens doesn't matter in the long run. When you really step back and look at it, it's a great painting, no matter who painted it. Art will last forever, but this painting and all the money the National Gallery paid for it won't, so why should we care in the first place? We should just enjoy it for what it is.

Kevin

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Submitted: 12 February 2006, 10:45:34 AM
  Well though I am not a learned student of art I enjoy a GOOD and authentic painting. Through your evidence I believe that the national gallery should go out and find the REAL "Samson and Delilah ."

The brushstrokes as you stated were totally inconsistent with Rubens style as well as the detail of his former works.

So all and all it looks to me that the painting should be returned to whomever the National Gallery bought it and ask for their monies returned without delay. In other words, given your evidence, the painting taking up that wall space should be used as a place mat for swine food.

Bart Brewer

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Submitted: 10 February 2006, 9:36:32 PM
  what seems to be an artistic claim against imitative art here, is more nearly a political argument about sincerity.

Oleg Jankovsky, writer, moskow

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Submitted: 04 February 2006, 11:43:38 AM
  The points that are shown and especially the comparisons of details make me think that it is a copy: it definitely doesn't look like Rubens masterly painting.

Alexandra Christou, artist , Athens, Greece

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Submitted: 30 January 2006, 9:25:08 AM
  Although the anatomy looks like that of Rubens, the lighting does not. The colors in the painting don't seem quite right to me as well.

Morris Howard, Artist, Memphis, USA

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