Samson and Delilah; Lucas CRANACH the Elder; 1529; tempera on wood; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Met NY

A couple: Samson and Delilah

Unerstand the scene

 What you can see in this picture……

A man is asleep on the knees of a woman who holds scissors in her hand and is about to cut his hair. The woman is Delilah, Samson’s mistress.

 Samson has a tremendous strength that he uses against the Philistines. Delilah, who belongs to this people, has promised them to find the cause of this strength. And Samson has just revealed that no razor has ever passed on his head because he is nazir, that is to say dedicated to God, and it is the latter who gives him his strength.


...and in other pictures

Samson can also sleep in a bed only, near Delilah. The latter is sometimes undressed but, whether she is naked or dressed, everything indicates they are lovers.

Delilah cuts his hair or else, once she has committed the act, she makes a sign to the hidden men who rush into the room to bind Samson hand and foot.

If an ass’s jawbone is found near Samson, it is an allusion to his strength for it is previously written: “And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men with it.” (Judges 15:15)


The biblical narrative


The Book of Judges, chapter 16   

Samson’s strength is gigantic. After many adventures, he has just pulled up the gates of the city of Gaza and carried them away on his back. Since"he loves a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name is Delilah" , the Philistines decide to pay her so that she should tell them the secret of his strength. 

Delilah says to Samson: "Tell me, I pray you, where your great strength lies, and with what you might be bound to afflict you."  Three times, Samson gives her wrong.

 And she said to him, "How can you say, I love you, when your heart is not with me? …" he told her all his heart, and said unto her: "No razor has ever come upon my head; for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother's womb: if I am shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man…."   

Delilah …  made him sleep on her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to torment him, and his strength went from him.  And she said: "The Philistines are upon you, Samson !"  ...the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he ground in the prison house. (Judges 16:4-21)



This betrayal shows one must distrust foreign women but it also symbolizes sensual pleasure prevailing over male strength.



See similar pictures


An intimate scene with the two lovers.

Samson and Delilah; Gustave MOREAU; 1881-1882 ; watercolour; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Photos RMN


Samson and Delilah; Andrea MANTEGNA; 1505; tempera on canvas; National Gallery, London

National Gallery London


The Philistines rush on Samson; Delilah’s betrayal is blatant.


Samson and Delilah; Ludovicus FINSON; c. 1610; oil on canvas; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille, France.

Photos RMN



Samson and Delilah ; Anthony van DYCK ; 1620; oil on canvas ; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

National Gallery London



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