Samson Slaying a Philistine

Bronze sculpture of one man slaying another man, frontal view.

Willem Danielsz. van Tetrode (Delft? ca. 1525–1580 Wedinghausen, Germany)
Samson Slaying a Philistine
Probably modeled in Florence in 1562
14.5 inches (37.5 cm)
Not in catalogue

Wielding the jawbone of an ass, the biblical hero Samson slew thousands of Philistine warriors, and in Medici Florence, he symbolized princely power. This work was modeled by the Dutch marble carver Tetrode to demonstrate his skill. The interlocked nudes form a pyramid that rests on a four-square base, a stable composition suggesting that Tetrode may have intended this group for a monumental marble. If so, it would have rivalled Michelangelo’s uncompleted statue of the subject.

Like many sculptors of his generation, Tetrode often transformed his models into statuettes. This recently discovered, unique bronze — the latest addition to the Hill collection — testifies to Tetrode’s mastery as he vied with his younger contemporary, Giambologna, for Medici patronage. The elegant kneeling figure in Giambologna’s nearby Rape of a Sabine rhetorically echoes the tragic struggle of Tetrode’s defeated Philistine.

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