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 / Delilah's hand
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.

  Click on a new detail to compare, and read commentary below:
Delilah's breasts Delilah's head Delilah's hand

Delilah's hand

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

[ Click image to enlarge ]
Pero's hand from the Cimon and Pero (Roman Charity) (about 1612), The State Hermitage, St. Petersburg

[ Click image to enlarge ]

At left, Delilah's hand appears to occupy a different colour-universe to Samson's back. At right, the hand, though its local colour may be more pink than the more yellow local of the male shoulder, nevertheless convincingly shares the same light, space and air of that shoulder. The most obvious mistake at left surely an unthinkable one for Rubens - is the presence of red shadows cast by the hand onto a surface whose other shaded areas are formed of greyish ochres and umbers (click image for a closer view). Even more incredible is the fact that these shadows are the same colour as the modeling shades on the hand itself. Compare with the hand at right, where the shadow not only correctly relates to the colour of the shoulder, but also has the correct degree of colour-contrast with the shading colours of the hand's upper surface.

In tonal terms, note also the subtle recession of the fingers through space at right, the whole middle finger being a delicate shade darker than the nearer index finger, Rubens once again achieving solidity of form. Compare with the hand at left, where all three fingers blare out with equal force, regardless of their position in space, once again producing the flatness characteristic of the painting as a whole. In addition, the forms at right have once more been carefully tied to their backgrounds through careful blending the failure of the painter to do so at left compounds the cut-out effect.

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