The figure of Samson was likely a self-portrait of the artist.
The Old Testament hero Samson rests his head on his hand in a pensive, even melancholic pose. Objects on the table recall two of his heroic deeds: he killed a lion with his bare hands, and liberated the Israelites by slaughtering a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone. Samson’s cuirass, or breastplate, is joined at the shoulder by a clasp in the form of two bees—the emblem of the Barberini family, who commissioned the painting around 1630. In 1627, the Barberini had engaged Valentin to paint another biblical hero, David victorious with the head of Goliath; the canvas depicting Samson was designed to be its pendant.
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