The Blinding of Samson


Oil on canvas
Inv. No. 1383

206 × 276 cm

zur  Biographie

In the Biblical Book of Judges, Samson fights the Philistines, blessed with superhuman powers unless his hair is cut. He reveals his secret to his beloved Delilah, who betrays it to the enemy. Having fallen asleep on Delilah’s lap, the hero is taken prisoner and blinded. Rembrandt thus took a story for which no pictorial tradition yet existed and lent it a drastic quality by placing the scissors and the shock of hair into the hand of Delilah herself and staging the unequal struggle in a glaringly illuminated pictorial space. The Philistines attack their victim in a hasty and chaotic fashion. The soldier who pulls him to the floor buries himself beneath the giant, the fellow at the back exhibits his lack of experience in the use of handcuffs and the third holds the dagger by the blade as he gouges Samson’s eyes from their sockets. Three is also the number of times Samson has tricked Delilah and his pursuers have failed in their endeavour. An entire Old Testament book thus culminates in a single instant of the greatest suspense. This may be the large-scale painting the artist presented to Constantijn Huygens – the governor’s secretary – three years later.

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