Caravaggesque School – Sampson And Delilah [17th century painting after Caravaggio’s style]

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Caravaggesque School
Sampson And Delilah
oil on canvas 
1st half of 17th century (estimate)
170 x 230 cm. (estimate)
style Baroque, Caravaggism (after Caravaggio’s style)


Artist/Maker: Not signed/Not defined/Caravaggesque School (estimate)

Object/Materials and Techniques: Oil painting/oil on canvas

Date: Made on 1st half of 17th century (estimate)

Dimensions: H. 170 cm. (estimate) x W. 230 cm. (estimate)

Art movement: Style Baroque/Caravaggism (strong influence and elements of Caravaggio’s technique)

Object history note: In private collection approximately for 70 years

Current Location: Private collection

Physical description: The painting depicts a snapshot of Sampson’s story where Sampson slept and Delilah, who deceived him, cut his hair and then betrayed him to the Philistines, being on the left.
Strong influence and elements of Caravaggio’s technique; shockingly realistic style with intense elements of drama and theatricality, heightened by the characteristic use of the contradiction of dark shadows and harsh lighting, the renowned chiaroscuro(the passage from light to darkness with little intermediate value). Framed with its original antique gilt wood frame.

Historical significance: This painting combines a romantic biblical drama and depicts a scene of the story of Sampson, a Nazirite who possesses great strength and fell in love with Delilah, who is bribed by the chief of the Philistines to discover the source of his strength. After three failed attempts doing so, she finally goads Sampson into telling her that his vigour is derived from his hair. As he sleeps, Delilah orders a servant to cut Sampson’s hair, thereby enabling her to turn him over to the Philistines. Sampson was, therefore, defeated by his enemies when he fell in love with a woman coming from the valley of Sorek, Delilah.

Influenced by Caravaggio’s style that wants to testify to human emotions, the painter seeks to make tangible a religious event and he, therefore, represents it as a scene of genre.

Historical context note: Caravaggism (Caravaggesque School), is a pictorial current of the first half of the 17th century. Appeared as a result of Caravaggio’s work at the end of the 16th century, Caravaggism is sometimes equated with a form of Roman Baroque against the classicism of the Carracci. This idea, however, is nuanced because of the many similarities that bring these two schools together. This current should not be described as a group or a school, because it did not constitute a structured movement, but at most an imitation, an influence of Italy. This intellectual evolution is halfway between the opposition to the classical rhetoric of the Academies on the one hand, and the brilliant, illusive enthusiasm of the Baroque on the other.

Characterized by the predominance of scenes with powerful contrasts of light and shade transcended by the virtuoso mastery ofchiaroscuro, it is built around the style of Caravaggio and his closest followers, like Bartolomeo Manfred. The Caravaggio style to put the shadows in chiaroscuro was practiced well before his arrival on the scene but it is Caravaggio who established the final technique, darkening the shadows and piercing the subject by a blinding light. Added to this is the acute observation of the physical and psychological reality.

Thus, Caravaggism, after Caravaggio’s style, is characterized by a radical naturalism, a vivid realism that combines close physical observation with a dramatic, theatrical approach by the use of chiaroscuro.

Bibliographic References:

  1. THE ART BOOK, PHAIDON, 1996, p. 81, p. 504.
  2. Edward Thompson, Prophecy, Types And Miracles, The Great Bulwarks Of Christianity: Or A Critical Examination And Demonstration Of Some Of The Evidences By Which The Christian Faith Is Supported, Hatchard & Son, 2017, pp. 299-300.
  3. Catherine Puglisi, Caravage, PHAIDON, 2007, p. 448.
  4. Denise Hooker, Histoire de l’art en Occident, Paris, Image et Page, 1990, p. 464.