after Rubens: the strange story of the Samson and Delilah
News Stirs Debate Around the World: a Fascinating First Week

Friday, October 28, 2005

It's been a fascinating first week for the comments we have received from all over the world confirm that you don't have to be an art historian to find this subject intriguing, and that for many people the 'Samson and Delilah' simply does not convince as a Rubens.

The Flash movie, which explains our serious doubts about the painting’s authenticity, was watched over a thousand times in this first week by people in over 50 countries. Some 85% of visitors have been from the UK, the rest of Europe (mainly Belgium, France, Greece and Spain) and the United States (27%). We are delighted though to have had many visitors from all over the world, including Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Central African Republic, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Philippines. Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Thailand, and UAE.

We have received many comments both for and against the attribution to Rubens, and the opening up of the debate has been universally welcomed. Mr Barry Streater of Berkhamsted wrote "If I were a member of a jury, I would say that the case has been made beyond reasonable doubt that the painting in the National Gallery is not by Rubens". Robert Haas from Kansas City was of a different opinion: "I believe that the National Gallery's painting is genuine. Not only is the brushwork pure Rubens, the small oil sketch for the painting confirms his authorship....Your website was great, but to me (and I am an artist and art history buff) your arguments did not convince."

In a strongly-worded response from the United States, Basil Coukis of Nashua, New Hampshire, engaged head-on with wider issues concerning public art and authenticity: "You have proven, to my satisfaction at least, that the painting is a fake and that the National Gallery should not display it as a genuine, hand-painted oil painting by the Master himself. No doubt, it would please you if the National Gallery acknowledged the error of its ways and took down the painting forthwith. But this will not happen any time soon. What is at stake here has nothing to do either with authenticity or provenance. We are talking about large amounts of cash paid for the painting, large commissions, the reputation of authenticators, the vanity of Trustees, and the inability of Directors to admit that they’ve been taken in. Consequently, despite your justified indignation, the painting will stay where it is. Countless visitors to the National Gallery will glance at it for five seconds and reassure themselves they’ve seen still another Rubens."

For many people though, has simply served as a welcome introduction to a great painter. London barrister Marika Lemos wrote "Very interesting. Whether or not it is a fake, I have learnt more about Rubens today than I would otherwise have done."

Meanwhile, the exhibition "Rubens: A Master in the Making" opened at the National Gallery on Wednesday, placing the 'Samson and Delilah' in the midst of undisputed works by Rubens, mainly from the period 1600-1608. The press received the exhibition warmly, and some of the interesting issues raised are touched on in our latest press review.

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