after Rubens: the strange story of the Samson and Delilah
Provenance Overview

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

In reality, there are only two things of which we can be absolutely certain.

The first is that Rubens painted a Samson and Delilah in the year or so after his return from Italy at the end of 1608. It hung in the house of his friend and patron Nicolaas Rockox, several times burgomaster of Antwerp, and one of the most cultured and influential figures in the city. The painting is mentioned in an inventory, and as we have seen in the The Eyewitnesses, was recorded by 2 artists while Rubens and Rockox still lived.

The year following Rockox’s death in 1640, the painting was auctioned off along with the rest of his property for the benefit of the poor. Now while there are various isolated references to similar sounding paintings later in the 17 th century, this is the last cast-iron reference to Rubens’ original Samson and Delilah.

The second certain fact is that the painting that hangs in the National Gallery today (whether or not you believe it to be the same painting that disappeared in 1641) was discovered by the art dealer Curt Benedict in the hands of a restorer in Paris in 1929, and was at first attributed to the 17th century Dutch painter Gerrit van Honthorst.

after Rubens flash movie
A full discussion of the intervening years will be posted here over the last 10 days of October. This will include an examintaion of the historical material relating to the Samson and Delilah that hung in the Liechtenstein Collection between 1700-1881 and is considered by many today to have been the original by Rubens. Meanwhile please explore this aspect of our case in the flash movie.
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