after Rubens: the strange story of the Samson and Delilah
 
 

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Comparisons Tool / Philistine barber's head
 
These are the original comparisons displayed in the "Style and Handling" section of the Flash Movie.

 
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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
 

Philistine barber's head

Head of man
Philistine barber's head from the Samson and Delilah Head of man from the Raising of the Cross (1610-11), Antwerp Cathedral, Antwerp

On the right, note the rhythmic, almost symphonic orchestration of line and form, which brings the character so powerfully to life. On the left we see Samson’s barber, his head in exactly the same attitude, but evincing no such sense of overall pictorial design, the artist having taken no opportunity to gracefully interrelate his forms through sophisticated rhythmic balance.

Also, in terms of simple observation of nature, note on the right the masterly assurance of the bone structure, the skin texture, the formation of brow, nose, eyelids and pupils. On the left, however, by comparison we find slackness of form, with no sure sense of the contours of the face receding through space. This slackness has been called ‘boldness’ by some, or evidence of Rubens’ Italian experience - but boldness or abbreviation are admirable only where structure and form have also been preserved.

Much has been made of the way the ochre ground of ‘Samson and Delilah’ has been deployed as a mid-tone (merely basic practice in painting), yet little has been said about the purposeless areas of exposed ground all over the painting, such as here behind the barber’s head and shoulder, and also in the hair, where light ochre spots appear without rhyme or reason. Compare this with the truly subtle use of the ground in the beard at right, so carefully balanced tonally with the rest of the head.

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