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What ever happened to Samson and Delilah ?
... a real detective-story for artlovers ...
 
 
Please hang on, never mind the longer download time,
because finally there's something to read on a page!
(besides, there's a  text only version)
And please link to this page if you consider the content being important enough!
 
 
 
Rockox, mayor of Antwerp, called one of his important rooms the "Groot Saleth"
In fact it was a private museum, where his rich collections of paintings, sculptures, coins, books... were kept and could be admired by visitors.

In 1609 Rubens was asked, by his friend and protector Rockox, to make a painting to be placed above this very chimney-piece in this room. 

 
It was the "Samson and Delilah", the painting 
that now is cause to continuous discussion. 
 
On a painting by the ANTWERP BAROQUE master Frans II Francken, specialised in representing such rich interiors, visitors of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich get an idea of how that "Groot Saleth" of the Rockox' House looked like; a chimney and the SAMSON AND DELILAH scene above it are an eye-catcher in the middle of the wall in front:
Wow! ... before we go on, I have to draw your attention 
to a remarkable 'detail':
 
Fragment of the so-called 
original Rubens, property of 
the National Gallery, London.
 
Detail of the 'whitness'-painting 
by Frans II Francken, to be seen 
in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
I enlarged the Frans Francken painting and connected both women's 
right eye with a line, in order to mark their position one to the other. 
See the BIG DIFFERENCE in angle? He was not what  may be 
called such a good painter, this Francken ... or was he ???
 
Rockox' possessions were sold publically after he died in 1640 (the same year that Rubens died in!). It's not known who bought the 'Samson and Delilah' at the occasion of this 'sort of auction'.
'A' Samson and Delilah 'soon' (i.e. about 1700) embellished the rich collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein in their Vienna palace. But this painting was always, by this family, considered to be a 'Jan van Haecke' (one of Rubens' many pupils at his Antwerp workshop).  ... Well, this is strange: why would this royal family believe they had a Jan van Haecke, when they could have believed they were in the possession of a 'real' Rubens??? It may mean that the painting was sold to them as a Rubens' copy, made by Jan van Haecke ... or were people at the time totally unaware of the existence of the Rubens' version?  Fairly unlikely.
 
 
... there's another argument for this conception ...
 
 
Have a look at this engraving: 

It was made in 1613 by a certain Jacob Matham
after 

- either the original Rubens painting 

- or after a study Rubens made before painting (though it's very detailed) 
 
 

Besides, it is mirrored to the Rubens' painting ... this can be explained: as it's an engraving, Jacob Matham did not take trouble to mirror Rubens' work, as normally engravers would do. 
Well, let's mirror it ourselves and have a look at an interestingly different detail (different to the so called Rubens' painting):
 
 
On the engraving that Jacob Matham made after Rubens (left), only three Philistine soldiers are waiting at the door to capture Samson (after he would loose his strength by shortening his hair),
.....while.....
on the (believed) Rubens painting their number is five! One of them
is not even wearing a helmet... some critics assume this is the portrait of the real painter!

 
So, the Samson-painting with the 5 Philistines remains in the hands of the Liechtenstein princes, till 1881, when Prince John II of Liechtenstein sells his 'Jan van Hoecke' ...  Whom to, one doesn't know ... 
In 1929, the painting (the same?) re-appears on the art market of Paris,
where it is claimed to be made by Rubens' hand, and sold to a German tobacco-dealer. It remained in private possession until...
 
... in the year 1980, the National Gallery of London bought it at Christies for about 5 million US-dollars.
 
The museum called it a moment of great excitement:
 
"That painting, with which
Rubens had dazzled Antwerp
on his return from Italy,
adds a significant new dimension
to the representation of the great
flemish artist at Trafalgar Square!"
 
Being real, it would be worth about 85 million dollars now (1997);

 (not being so, perhaps one tenth of this value...)

 
 
After they bought the 'SAMSON AND DELILAH' at the time, the National Gallery sent specialists to Antwerp in order to make an exact copy of the still existing chimney in Rockox' House. It's above that copy that the painting can be admired in the Gallery. 
If it's really a (excellent) copy, then 
WHAT HAPPENED to the ORIGINAL, once owned by ROCKOX ??? 
Probably discussions and investigations on that serious matter will go on for a while.

 

Click this link for a  German article about the matter !
Planning a VISIT  to Antwerp ?
Do you want to walk on your own, through the old city ?
Then here's a nice 'historic path' for you to follow!
Return to the Quick Links Page here
 
 
 
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