Alexandre Cabanel (French, 1823–1889)
Alexandre Cabanel (French, 1823–1889)

Samson and Delilah

Alexandre Cabanel (French, 1823–1889)
Samson and Delilah
signed and dated 'ALEX.CABANEL./1878' (upper left)
oil on canvas
36 ½ x 25 ¾ in. (92.7 x 65.3 cm.)
Vincent Astor (1891-1959), New York.
His sale; American Art Association, New York, 21 April 1926, lot 412.
Acquired at the above sale by J. H. Cooper, for $300.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 29 October 1987, lot 75.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 24 October 2007, lot 259.
with S.V.U. Mánes Galerie Diamant, Prague.
Edward Strahan, ed., The Art Treasures of America being the Choicest Works of Art in the Public and Private Collections of North America, Philadelphia, 1879, vol. II, p. 78.
Lucy H. Hooper, Parisian Art-Items, The Art Journal, New York, vol. 5, June 1879, p.189.
Lucy H. Hooper, Contemporary French Artists: Meissonier and Cabanel, The Art Journal, New York, vol. 5, September 1879, p. 286.
Claude Vento (pseudonym of Alice Laincel), Les Peintres de la femme, Paris, 1888, p. 204.
Georges Lafenestre, Alexandre Cabanel, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 3 ed., t. 1, April 1889, p. 278.
Armand (Inventoire Armand), Inventaire des dessins, photographies et gravures relatifs à l'histoire générale de l'art: Légués au département des Estampes de la Bibliothèque nationale par M. A. Armand, rédigé par M. François Courboin, Lille, 1895, no. 10360 (illustrated).
Jean Nougaret, "Alexandre Cabanel. Sa vie, son oeuvre, essai de catalogue," unpublished dissertation, Montpellier, 1962, p. 154, no. 328.
C. Blyth, Reimagining Delilah's Afterlives as Femme Fatale: The Lost Seduction, London/New York, 2017, pp. 102-105 (illustrated).
Montpellier, Musée Fabre, Alexandre Cabanel, 1823-1889. La tradition du beau, 10 July-5 December 2010, no. 391; the exhibition later travelled to Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, 4 February-15 May 2011.
Prague, S.V.U. Mánes Galerie Diamant, Metamorphoses, 4 April-31 May 2013.
Hluboká nad Vltavou, Ales South Bohemian Gallery, Alfons Mucha v zrcadle doby, 28 June -28 September 2014, no. 8.

Brought to you by

Alastair Plumb
Alastair Plumb

Lot Essay

By the 1860s Alexandre Cabanel had firmly established himself as an academic painter. His work was often compared favourably with that of William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean-Léon Gérôme and he was the recipient of numerous honours for his work. In 1839 he studied under François-Edouard Picot at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was Picot who impressed upon him the importance of selecting historical and literary subjects as the basis of his paintings; a lesson that Cabanel faithfully adhered to throughout his career.
The Israelite hero Samson was granted great strength from God in order to defend his people against their Philistine oppressors. After having defeated the Philistines’ army, Samson fell in love with the seductive Delilah, a Philistine. Delilah was approached by agents from the Philistines' rulers, who bribed her to find out the secret of Samson’s power: three times he teased her with misleading information, but when she asked him a fourth time, he confessed that his power was linked to his long hair. If he were ever to cut his hair or shave, this would be a breach of his vow to God and deprive him of his strength.
The present lot depicts a moment in the story of Samson and Delilah just before Delilah cuts Samson’s hair. Delilah is the dominating figure in the present composition and the focus of the artist. Her pale skin shines against the dark background and gives her an ethereal and almost mystic character.

More from European Art: 19th Century & Orientalist Art

View All
View All