after Rubens: the strange story of the Samson and Delilah

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Comparisons Tool / Delilah's head
A new set of comparisons between details in the Samson and Delilah and Rubens' Cimon and Pero, which has been cited as its painterly counterpart by the National Gallery.

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Delilah's breasts Delilah's head Delilah's hand

Delilah's head

Pero's head
Delilah's head from the Samson and Delilah

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Pero's head from the Cimon and Pero (Roman Charity) (about 1612), The State Hermitage, St. Petersburg

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At left, tone and colour problems abound, with highlights standing out all over, and a failure to orchestrate colour beyond the merely local. Pero’s head, on the other hand, demonstrates an old master's virtuoso response to the subtle hierarchy of highlights which fall on any object in space, and the colours used are related to each other, i.e. despite the differing local colour of each part (the yellow of the hair, the pink of the skin, the white of the fabric) the hues have been so modulated as to convince us that all this matter is being illuminated by the same light and in the same space. However at left, there is no meaningful relation between, for instance, the colour on the back of Delilah's neck and the orange region at the back of her hair.

In addition, the modeling of Delilah's face consists of an over-slick, air-brushed-effect blending which fails to evoke anything like the subtle skin texture achieved at right. Note also the indecision apparent in the colouring of Delilah's forehead, the artist hedging between green and red.

The more one looks, the more Delilah falls apart, as in the failure to blend and relate the outline of her profile to the background, a labour so diligently executed at right. Contrast the beautiful shimmer on the forehead at right with the brash, unshimmering white-out of Delilah's flesh.

Delilah's breasts Delilah's head Delilah's hand