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.

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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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Submitted: 22 January 2006, 8:01:34 PM
  The content as well as the design of your site , are to be applauded.

The only conclusion which any rational person can arrive at , after negotiating it - is that the “ Samson & Delilah “ at present with the National Gallery London , has very serious doubts attached to it.

In 1984 , Dr Christopher Wright addressed a similar problem which related to the “ great “ Georges De La Tour “ - Masterpiece - ‘ The Cheat ‘ which at that time ,held an elevated position at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

After the publication of his book “ The Art Of the Forger “ - the ridicule & scorn which had been heaped upon Dr . Wright by the Art establishment , quickly ceased and the ‘ De La Tour ‘’ masterpiece was quietly removed to the Met’s basement .

As always in such cases , large egos & inflated reputations are at stake - Hence the reluctance to face the truth.

However in saying this , we should not be blinded to the wonderful work carried out by the Director ,Trustes and Staff at the National Gallery London on an ongoing basis.

In the greater scheme of things - this misattribution to Rubens , is but a small pimple on a comparatively unblemished complexion.

Patrick Brown, Dealer, Dublin , Ireland

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Submitted: 20 January 2006, 10:52:00 PM
  The way I look at this work of art and see this massive painting supposedly by Rubens,.... that the copying artist seems to me he could not paint hands or the feet in the detail that Rubens had or would, or should I say may have had difficulty in these parts of the anatomy of the body or even possibly did not care about the inconsequential. This is definitely a copy,... but by whom?

I myself like it better than the etching or the depiction of it in the other painting by the artist's or eyewitnesses you speak of. Sure,... anybody with eyes and good feelings for art can tell you that this painting is not by Rubens, but from quite possibly a greater hand of a different artist. I'm not running Rubens down for his works of art by saying this,.. I'm only saying Rubens paid more attention to detail, but could not use light and shadow along with the chiaroscuro which is quite dominant in this painting.

I'm not saying that the copyist could have been Rembrandt, but that possibility cannot be over looked. Now,.. if this happened to be true, what exactly would you think it's value would be,.... not in dollar value, but as a copy by an other artist who appreciated Rubens popularity and works of art. Naturally being this close to Rubens' works it would not contain any signature as to the rightful artist,... only painted for a means of selling popular art of the times and for means of support,... and if by this artist I speak of,...more than likely would have been painted after his bankruptcy and exile out of Amsterdam.

Kind regards, Bob Miller ---vanrijngo

Bob Miller, art researcher & collector, Nampa, Idaho, USA

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Submitted: 20 January 2006, 2:03:17 PM
  I think sum1 wasted a few million bucks for a copy...

Rainer Richter, Student, Cologne, Germany

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Submitted: 18 January 2006, 1:24:46 PM
  my first imprestion when looking at the painting was too much light and the colour purple being an eye sore in such a painting by a master who always seemed to use less viabrant colours . The style in my opinion is totally contrary to a true Rubens

lilly attard, retired rest. mang, rabat, malta

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