Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery
March 9 through May 30, 2010
Considered to be a painting by Peter Paul Rubens when it was bequeathed to Dulwich Picture Gallery, this dramatic composition by the young Van Dyck is greatly indebted to the Flemish master in whose studio he worked between 1617 and 1620.
The tale of Samson’s benighted love affair with the beautiful Delilah is recounted in the Old Testament Book of Judges. Samson’s enemies, the Philistines, bribed Delilah to discover the source of her lover’s extraordinary strength, which lay in his luxuriant hair that was never cut. Having lulled Samson to sleep, Delilah “called for a man and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his hair . . . and his strength went from him.” Van Dyck shows the moment of Samson’s undoing, with the victorious Philistines who will imprison and blind him about to make their entrance at far left. The opulence and luxury of Delilah’s apartment, her exposed breasts, and the presence of the old procuress behind her suggest that Van Dyck (like Rubens) was also familiar with the account of this story in Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jewish People, in which Delilah was identified as a whore.
The exhibition, in the Frick’s Oval Room and Garden Court, is co-organized by Colin B. Bailey, Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at the Frick, and Xavier F. Salomon, Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich. A fully illustrated catalogue, written by Dr. Salomon, features an essay on the origins of the collection at Dulwich as well as comprehensive entries on the nine works.
Principal funding for the exhibition is provided by Christie's and Melvin R. Seiden.
Additional support is generously provided by John and Constance Birkelund, Mr. and Mrs. Walter A. Eberstadt, Fiduciary Trust Company International, Barbara G. Fleischman, Francis Finlay, and Hester Diamond.
The accompanying catalogue is made possible by Jon and Barbara Landau.
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.