Sunday, August 19, 2007


This "modello" (oil sketch of 52.1 x 50.5 cm.) of the famous night where Delilah cut off the hair of the Jewish Biblical Judge Samson was made by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). Rubens was a prolific XVIIth. century Flemish Baroque painter and a proponent of an exuberant Baroque style that emphasized movement, color, and sensuality.

It was commissioned in 1608-9 by Nicolaas Rockox burgomaster of Antwerp and official of the Guild of the Arquebusiers and the painting hung in his offices until his death in 1640. During this period, it was copied by Frans Francken II (1581-1642) and Jakob Matham (1571-1631). After his death the picture was mentioned in his inventory. It reappeared in 1692 in the inventory of a Guillelmo Potteau and in the property of councillor Segars in Antwerp in 1698-1700. It 1700, the Prince of Liechtenstein said he would buy it and effectively in May 1700 the art dealer Forchoudt sold it in Vienna to an unidentified buyer.

The same month it became part of the collection of Prince Johann of Liechtenstein but was attributed to Jan van den Hoeck(1611 - 1651) , a student of Rubens. Then it stayed in this collection until 1880 when it was sold by Prince Johann II to an unnamed buyer. It resurfaced in Paris in 1929 (with slightly smaller dimensions : - 1cm, actually the tip of the toe of Samson was gone) in the hands of the German art galerie van Diemen (Berlin) but attributed this time to Honthhorst, the Dutch Caravaggist.

The German galery offered it to a German collector from Hamburg named August Neuerburg who asked an advice from a Dr. Ludwig Burchard, an art dealer associated to van Diemen Galerie under the umbrella of the Margraf Concern, until then owned by Albert Loeske. I has just passed to long time employees Jacob and Rosa Oppenheimer. In 1937 the Nazis will close down the galerie.

Dr Burchard pronounced the picture as "original work of Rubens" and on this advice Neuerburg bought it as such in 1930. Many years later in 1967 the modello appeared at a Christie's auction and was sold for $ 70,560 to Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Leyman who endowed it to the Museum of Art of Cincinnati (Ohio) in 1972.

Amusingly enough the National Gallery in London bought another Samson and Delilah by Rubens in 1980 for £2.3 million ($5.4 million)whose autenticity is now contested.

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