after Rubens: the strange story of the Samson and Delilah
 
 

Choose a comparison set (more to be added during Nov) from the drop-down menu below, and click on the thumbnails to view comparisons and our commentary below.

Comparisons Tool / Detail of carpet
 
These are the original comparisons displayed in the "Style and Handling" section of the Flash Movie.

 
  Click on a new detail to compare, and read commentary below:
Head of old woman Detail of head of old woman Detail of carpet Carpet Samson's head Philistine barber's head Old woman's hand Statue of Venus and Cupid
Statue of Venus and Cupid Statue of Cupid Statue of Cupid Samson's foot Samson's foot
 

Detail of carpet

Table covering
Detail of carpet from the Samson and Delilah Table covering from the The Four Philosophers (1611-12), Palazzo Pitti, Florence

On the right we see again the powerful intensity of Rubens’ observation. Compare its detailed evocation of texture and the virtuoso mimicking by the brush of the pile stippling of the material, with the carpet on the left, where the brush fails to convey to us the nature of the material being depicted.

Note also the way the inelegantly drawn motif on the left floats away from the supposed form of the carpet. Contrast this with the totally convincing integration and recession through space of the motif on the right. Compare the beautifully controlled highlights on the gold cross with the random, confused scattering of white highlights on the left. It cannot be emphasised enough that nowhere else in Rubens do we find a pattern floating off a surface. On the contrary, Rubens consistently revelled in the virtuoso depiction of such details.

Attempts have even been made to explain this passage of the painting by suggesting that Rubens was in some way pre-empting 20th Century modernism, in particular Matisse. If this is so, he made no follow-up to this ‘breakthrough’ at any point in his subsequent career. Further, to relate this passage to Matisse, the Impressionists or even the Venetians would be to misunderstand the achievements of these masters, all of whom prized purity of colour and form, qualities absent from the detail before us.

Head of old woman Detail of head of old woman Detail of carpet Carpet Samson's head Philistine barber's head Old woman's hand Statue of Venus and Cupid
Statue of Venus and Cupid Statue of Cupid Statue of Cupid Samson's foot Samson's foot