Samson Betrayed, by F. R. Pickersgill (1820-1900), 1850. Oil on canvas, 243.8 x W 306 cm. Collection: Manchester Art Gallery. Accession number: 1882.19. Acquisition method: transferred from the Royal Manchester Institution, 1882. Kindly made available via the ArtUK website on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

This is the famous episode in Judges 16, when Delilah orders a man to "shave off the seven locks" of Samson's head (verse 16) while he is asleep with her, and thus deprives him of his mighty strength. The scene is full of tension, the facial expressions and postures of the various figures (apart from the oblivious sleeper) suggesting wariness, as if they fear that the victim might wake before the deed is done. The two women clinging together at the right seem to be dancing girls — a tambourine lies half-visible in that corner of the picture. Perhaps they were hired to put Samson at his ease until he fell asleep across Delilah's lap. Another man, helmeted like the perpetrator, peers through at the proceedings. Two other elements of the painting foretell Samson's revenge: the two great pillars on either side, and the blood-red of the couch and on the material next to it, draped over one of the girls. The influence of William Etty, who excelled in studies of nudes, can be felt here, as can Pickersgill's tendency to contrast "fair-skinned female nudes with muscular dark-skinned male forms" (Valentine). — Jacqueline Banerjee


"Samson Betrayed." Art UK. Web. 14 March 2019.

Valentine, Helen. "Pickersgill, Frederick Richard (1820–1900), history painter." book">Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 14 March 2019.

Created 14 March 2019