The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of June 27, 2017

Samson and Delilah, c. 1621

oil on canvas, Framed: 158.4 x 122.5 x 11.8 cm (62 5/16 x 48 3/16 x 4 5/8 in); Case: 139.7 x 177.8 x 28 cm (55 x 70 x 11 in); Unframed: 129 x 94 cm (50 3/4 x 37 in). Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1968.23

Samson single-handedly crushed the Philistine army. In turn, the Philistines bribed his lover, Delilah, to reveal Samson’s source of strength: his hair, uncut since birth. While Samson was asleep, Delilah signaled a waiting Philistine, who sheared the hero, rendering him helpless. Honthorst intensified the narrative by having Delilah cut Samson’s hair herself. An old woman also warns us against waking him, which implicates the viewer in Samson’s emasculation. She also activates the space between us and the painting, a common strategy in this era to connect more directly with the viewer.

(Possibly) San Salvatore in Lauro, in1701 (on loan from the family of the Marchése Tommaso Raggi, as "Dalida" by "Monsù Gerardo").
1968 Year in Review, The Cleveland Museum of Art Bulletin, LVI, no. 1, January 1969, no. 66, repr. p. 14.
Caravaggio and His Followers, The Cleveland Museum of Art, October 30, 1971-January 2, 1972, no. 35.
Dutch Art and Life in the Seventeenth Century, The Cleveland Museum of Art, July 10- September 2, 1973.
Sinners and Saints, Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and His Dutch and Flemish Followers. The North Carolina Museum of Art September 29- December 27, 1998; The Milwaukee Art Museum January 29- April 18, 1999; The Dayton Art Institute May 8- July 18, 1999;cat. no. 19, pp. 128-130; fig. 3, p. 221.
London: Royal Academy of Arts (1/20/01 - 4/16/01). Rome: Palazzo Venezia (5/9/01-7/31/01). The Genius of Rome, 1592-1623; cat. no. 116, p. 313, detail, pp 304-305.
Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (March 29, 2007 - July 8, 2007): "Masterpieces of European Painting from the Cleveland Museum of Art"
Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, France (6/22/2012 - 10/14/2012): "Le Caravagisme Européen", ex. cat. no. 52, p. 228-229.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA (11/11/2012 - 2/10/2013): "Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy", ex. cat. no. 52, p. 228-229.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy (2./10/2015 - 5/24/2015): "Gherardo delle Notti"

After 1621-at least 1701 Possibly Marchése Tommaso Raggi [1595/6-1676], Genoa and Rome, and descendents1
Possibly until c. 1914 Possibly the Ruspoli collection, Rome, sold to an art dealer2
Possibly after 1914 (Art dealer?)3
Probably until 1968 (Dealer, Rome, sold to the Hazlitt Gallery)
Until 1968 (Hazlitt Gallery, London, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art)
1968- The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio


1In his dissertation, Jan Miel (1599-1644): a Flemish painter in Rome, Thomas Kren suggests that a painting of Dalida (Delilah was referred to as Dalida in Chaucer) by Honthorst that was lent to an exhibition at San Salvatore in Lauro in 1701 by Raggi’s heirs may be the CMA picture.

2According to the dealer who sold the painting to the Hazlitt Gallery, the Honthorst had been in the collection of the Ruspoli family, a noble Italian family with origins traceable to the thirteenth century. Adolfo Ruspoli died in 1914 and his estate was liquidated shortly thereafter on February 7th of that year. It is possible this painting was among the liquidated assets, but at this point, no record situating the Honthorst in the Ruspoli collection has been located.

3John Lishawa of the Hazlitt Gallery wrote to CMA curator Ann Tzeutschler Lurie in 1969 that when he purchased the painting from a Roman dealer, he was told that it had previously been sold to a “small dealer” by the Roman branch of the Ruspoli family. This dealer may have then sold it to the Roman dealer from whom Lishawa/Hazlitt bought the painting, but there is no confirmation of these details.


John Lishawa, letter to Ann Tzeutschler Lurie, March 20, 1969, in CMA curatorial file.

John Lishawa, letter to Sherman Lee, Nov. 17, 1967, in CMA curatorial file.

John Lishawa, letter to Sherman Lee, Nov. 17, 1967.

Kren, Thomas, and Jan Miel. Jan Miel (1599-1644): A Flemish Painter in Rome. 1989.

Thomas Kren, letter to Ann Tzeutschler Lurie, Dec. 20, 1977, in CMA curatorial file.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Library materials about Gerrit van Honthorst (8)

Detail Views