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Is the National Gallery’s Rubens a copy? I’ve spent half my life fighting for the truth

A Samson and Deliah. (Credit:VCG Wilson/Corbis/ Getty)

A Samson and Deliah. (Credit:VCG Wilson/Corbis/ Getty)


April 11, 2023   8 mins

This has been a long argument. In a few days, I will have lived for 77 years, and for nearly half that time, I have been challenging the National Gallery in London over one of its showpiece paintings.

At issue is the work presented to the public as the original Samson and Delilah, painted by Peter Paul Rubens in 1609. It was bought by the Gallery at a Christie’s auction in 1980 for £2.5 million: a modest sum now, but it was the most the Gallery had ever paid for a painting and a near record for any Old Master transaction.

I first saw it in 1986 and immediately felt it was a shoddy artefact, lacking the brilliance of my favourite European painter. Who am I — you ask — to judge? Well, I am an artist and art historian. My best-known expertise is the Greco-Roman funerary art of Egypt, and that in turn has led me to a broad study of colour and its application to surfaces ranging from marble to canvas, especially in the depiction of human figures. Now resident in my native Athens, I spent most of my working life in London.

When I came across the Gallery’s dubious acquisition, I was a mature student at Wimbledon School of Art, filling in some gaps in the education I had received at the Slade in London, the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, and the Kokoschka School of Seeing in Salzburg. I was joined in my campaign by two fellow students half my age, Siân Hopkinson and Steve Harvey, who shared my intuition: this could not be a Rubens. As we researched, our doubts grew.

In 1992, the three of us submitted a report to the Gallery, full of naive enthusiasm. Although we know much more now, our report holds good: “The execution seemed crude, the colour unsubtle and uncharacteristic of Rubens’ palette. The tonal values were incorrect in relation to the light sources. The handling of the paint was very crude, the draughtsmanship was poor and there was weakness in the depiction of textures.”

Also, the provenance was suspect. Nobody doubts that Rubens depicted Samson and Delilah in a commission for Nicolaas Rockox, the mayor of Antwerp; or that the resulting work adorned the mayor’s salon until his death in 1640. During that time, two diligent copies of the painting were made: an engraving and an oil painting which shows the whole salon, including Rubens’ masterful work. Both copies survive and give an idea of the brilliance of the original. But after 1641, that original disappeared — and as we pointed out, the Gallery’s new acquisition differed significantly from the two careful copies which are the best guide to what Rubens produced.

As for the Gallery’s acquisition, the earliest sure fact was that in 1929, it was bought by German art dealers from a conservator in Paris; the seller seemingly made no claim that it was an original Rubens, but the German scholar Ludwig Burchard, a famous but flawed connoisseur, pronounced that it was the long-lost work of 1609. This verdict made a fortune for the German dealership, whose partners included Burchard’s brother Otto.

According to the National Gallery, the painting was held by the Royal House of Liechtenstein for two centuries; but the evidence for this, as the three of us determined, was flimsy. Our research was sound, but we were foolish to imagine we could penetrate a mighty fortress such as the National Gallery or indeed the Antwerp Rubenianum, a cliquey group of scholars which shows excessive deference to the opinions of Ludwig Burchard.

Still, arguments about the painting continued to flare, rising to a crescendo in 1996-97. Mike Daley, founder of Artwatch UK and a champion among cultural reporters, wrote incisive critiques, showing how the National Gallery’s Technical Bulletin of 1983, purporting to explain the painting’s physical structure and likely history, was odd and contradictory. At last, Neil MacGregor, director of the National Gallery, admitted that critics of the painting, who by that time included a fine Anglo-Polish scholar, Kasia Pisarek, might have a point. Pisarek at least has raised serious questions that “I cannot easily answer”, he told The Sunday Times. Meanwhile, the Gallery press office promised an open debate, which never happened.

Ever since, there have been surges of scepticism, which the Gallery has dismissed. In 2021, a high-tech company in Zurich, Art Recognition, used Artificial Intelligence to compare the brushstrokes in the contested work with scores of unchallenged works by Rubens; their verdict was that there was a 92% probability of it not being authentic. The Gallery simply said it would await fuller publication of the research.

Despite this Sphinx-like stance, I persist. And here, I want to disclose certain episodes of this story for the first time. First, an evening in April 1997. Sir Isaiah Berlin visited Athens to receive an honorary doctorate, and I attended a small dinner marking the occasion. The great Russo-British philosopher had served as a trustee of the National Gallery and knew its internal deliberations. I was excited. Also present was Marilena Cassimatis, an eminent Greek art historian.

When the issue of Rubens briefly surfaced over dinner, Berlin deftly changed topic. But afterwards, as we collected our coats, he approached Marilena and myself and uttered some unforgettable words: “I’ll help you with the Rubens. Write to [my fellow trustee] Sir Keith Thomas… tell him from me that the truth will come out in the end — it always does — and the sooner it comes out the better it will be.” Berlin then returned to his hotel in a taxi accompanied by Marilena and her husband. He and Marilena had bonded as German speakers.

“Your friend is right about the Rubens,” he said again. A few months later, Berlin died at 88. Shaken by his passing, I never contacted Thomas, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday. But the implications of Berlin’s words seem clear: did he think the Gallery knew things about the contested Rubens which it had not revealed? Had there been an internal debate about what to disclose, with Berlin advocating glasnost — unsuccessfully? Possibly sensing his mortality, had the philosopher broken the secrecy of the Gallery’s proceedings to give me a word of encouragement?

I salute his bravery. Meanwhile, a character in this saga who stands at the other end of the truth-telling spectrum is Brian Sewell, who before his death in 2015 was known as Britain’s cattiest and most influential art critic. Sewell always said he put friendship over truth or integrity; he had defiantly sheltered Anthony Blunt, the royal art adviser exposed as a traitor. When his friends in the National Gallery were challenged over the Rubens affair, Sewell responded with personal attacks on me and on Mike Daley. Having previously praised my work, he mocked me as an expert on “portraits on mummified corpses” and jibed: “there must surely be an old proverb warning us against unlikely Greeks expressing improbable opinions.” He went on to scorn Mike as a “dabbler in the dark”. When the full story of Samson and Delilah one day emerges, Sewell may be admired for his acerbic wit, but not as a friend of truth.

Another incident from that period spurs me on. It concerns the day — September 25, 1996 — when to shut me up, the Gallery asked me to its laboratory to watch as a dendrochronologist (a scientist who measures the age of wood) took a sample from the painting to assess its age. I had proposed such a test but for reasons I will explain, I do not believe that the experiment which happened was valid. In any case, something quite different jumped out at me as I saw the painting for the time without its frame.

I should first explain that one strange feature of the work is that it now rests on a cheap pink modern blockboard. In the Nineties, as Mike Daley and others rattled the Gallery’s cage, there was much contention over when the blockboard was added and why. Was it done to cover up, perhaps in more than one sense, the work’s origins? The Gallery adamantly insists that some time in the 20th century — well before its own purchase — the painting, originally on oak, “was planed down to a thickness of less than 3mm” and then stuck onto the blockboard. I have grave doubts over whether such a planing-down is physically possible.

What I saw in the laboratory that day was the familiar work, pasted on a tawdry pink blockboard, which to my surprise extended 10-14cms beyond the painting on all four sides, a feature which the frame, newly installed by the Gallery, had concealed. This protrusion was in stark contrast to the testimony I had gathered about the state of the painting before its arrival in London in 1980, when for several months it was mostly in the care of a Belgian bank. Before 1980 an older wooden backing, several centimetres thick, was intact, and above all the painting and its backing were co-extensive, nothing stuck out. So this much is clear: at some late stage in its chequered existence, the painting was tinkered with. The Gallery does not deny having put on a new frame, which was itself a deviation from conservation practice. I now ask: did it tinker with the painting in other ways, and if so, why?

To be clear, I don’t consider the Gallery’s Samson and Delilah a fake. It is a copy — made in good faith by a person who had studied one or both of the surviving reproductions of the Rubens original. I believe I know who made the copy.

Let’s start with some background. An unwritten law among artists is that if you copy an Old Master painting, you omit or alter one element, to show you are not aiming to deceive. This painting is a case in point. We also know that learning-through-copying was much practised in Madrid’s art school, the Academia Real de San Fernando in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Students produced hundreds of diligent but inexact copies, and Rubens was a popular prototype. I believe that the scrupulously inexact rendering of Samson and Delilah that now hangs in London is the work of one such Spanish-trained artist. And I think I have pinpointed exactly who that is.

It was Mike Daley who discovered a hand-written note by Ludwig Burchard in which he names — as Gaston Lévy — the Paris-based conservator who sold the contested painting to visiting German buyers in 1929. But which Gaston Lévy? The name is common. Tragically, my initial investigations revealed the details of at least 15 French Jews of that name who had perished in the Holocaust. Finally, thanks to the digitised archives of the Smithsonian Art Museum, I discovered a bearer of the name who fits perfectly into the story of this painting as I reconstruct it. Born in Brazil but educated in Madrid, he was a beloved pupil of the Spanish neo-impressionist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida; he later moved to New York, where he spelt his surname Levi, and became a famous conservator.

I believe that this Gaston Lévy copied Samson and Delilah with the encouragement of his teacher. That helps explain why the palette and brushwork in the contested work are so close to Spanish neo-impressionism, and so far from 17th-century Flanders. I think I know too how Lévy worked. In Madrid in the early 20th century, he could never have found a vast oak panel. Budding artists made their copies on canvas. I believe the Gallery’s painting is on canvas, stretched over wood, and I challenge the Gallery’s current masters to prove me wrong.

Until that day comes, I have a working hypothesis as to how Lévy proceeded. When he moved to France in the Twenties, he simply rolled up the canvas in order to transport it. (Had his copy been on oak, it would have been difficult for a penurious artist to move.) On arrival in Paris, Lévy must have stuck the canvas onto six veneer-thin panels of oak, and then supported the whole structure by adding bits of thicker wood underneath. He put a trellis on the back to complete the look of a traditionally cradled painting, ready to be sold on the Paris market — not as an original Rubens but as a fine old work of art. Lévy’s elaborate backing was at some — rather late — stage replaced by the cheap blockboard. I ask the Gallery to tell us when and why.

My hunch that the Gallery’s painting is in fact executed on linen canvas, stuck on wood, has grown with every year since I saw it, unframed, in the laboratory. It looked excessively thin and somehow “ironed on”.  Two eminent conservators recently told me, after seeing high-resolution images, that they too believe the painting to be on linen. Yet another clue is the Gallery’s own artless admission that when first inspected in its lab, the paint showed widespread “blistering”. That is exactly what you would expect if an oil-painted canvas was heat-sealed onto wood.

Of course, on that question, our hypothesis needs to be tested. With today’s technology, the Gallery could ascertain the exact material structure of the painting in a few minutes. Why won’t it do so? Could it be because that would risk exposing the dendrochronology test, on which the Gallery still relies, as irrelevant: if the painting was on canvas, the age of any underlying wood does not matter.

Honest investigation could embarrass some very grand personages. But to them, I simply repeat the words of Sir Isaiah Berlin: “The truth will come out in the end, and the sooner it does, the better it will be.” To the best of my ability, I have shared my thoughts about the story. I make no claim to omniscience. Will the other protagonists, who like me are in the evening of life, follow the great philosopher and share theirs?


Euphrosyne Doxiadis is an artist and art historian specialising in the Greco-Roman funerary art of Egypt.


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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I found this rather interesting, on several levels.

There’s the anecdotal element, regarding eminent figures such as Isaiah Berlin and (to a lesser degree) Brian Sewell. Then there’s a dive into the training techniques of art academies. There’s also historical narrative about the movement of works of art plus fascinating (to a fellow artist) examples of how previous generations used materials, especially as the basis for their work.

Most of all, of course, the arcane and often murky world of art provenance, gallery prestige, human failings and financial liability.

As this article shows (and i congratulate the author for her persistence), the production of works of art isn’t just about the humanity involved in their making, but the ripples of wider human traits in their subsequent history and conservation.

I could imagine some might react by saying “Oh, this is just a tale about movers in an exclusive world, far removed from the pressing concerns of our lives”. But i’d disagree. What it reveals is that no matter how exclusive or privileged the environment, all the human failings but also better aspects of our natures – in particular, integrity – remain constant, which is an important insight for anyone seeking to take their own place in a more rarified circle of life.

I hope the author can follow this up with a further article, should there be a satifactory outcome to this tale from her perpective. Possibly, articles on other art matters too, with her knowledge and insight.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I found this rather interesting, on several levels.

There’s the anecdotal element, regarding eminent figures such as Isaiah Berlin and (to a lesser degree) Brian Sewell. Then there’s a dive into the training techniques of art academies. There’s also historical narrative about the movement of works of art plus fascinating (to a fellow artist) examples of how previous generations used materials, especially as the basis for their work.

Most of all, of course, the arcane and often murky world of art provenance, gallery prestige, human failings and financial liability.

As this article shows (and i congratulate the author for her persistence), the production of works of art isn’t just about the humanity involved in their making, but the ripples of wider human traits in their subsequent history and conservation.

I could imagine some might react by saying “Oh, this is just a tale about movers in an exclusive world, far removed from the pressing concerns of our lives”. But i’d disagree. What it reveals is that no matter how exclusive or privileged the environment, all the human failings but also better aspects of our natures – in particular, integrity – remain constant, which is an important insight for anyone seeking to take their own place in a more rarified circle of life.

I hope the author can follow this up with a further article, should there be a satifactory outcome to this tale from her perpective. Possibly, articles on other art matters too, with her knowledge and insight.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

The origins of the story are completely believable: budding arts students discover fraud of national significance and are shouted down by the establishment. I am sympathetic to this story as a hard-headed student myself at one point. However, it doesn’t do to spend half your life on a crusade going nowhere (art history isn’t exactly going to chage the world no matter what the Da Vinci Code might say).
The authority of the author’s side is simply not credible and reads like something out of a novel. Would Isaiah Berlin (a man not known for hiding controversial opinions) have just gone along with a huge cover up? It discredits his memory rather than enhancing it. A bunch of students having a hunch is not evidence and her own studies – as Sewell unkindly puts it – are in another field. This is not even debated let alone refuted by the author. Quoting two scholars who have seen “high resolution photos” i.e. not inspected it,
More links would have been useful – a frequent refrain from me on a lot if Unherd articles – about why Buchard is “flawed” or why the Antwerp scholars are overly deferential to him for instance. Especially in a specialised subject like this it isnt obvious why the general audience would agree with these statements.

An interesting article but one that I think Unherd should consider having the other side told on, especially as I assume most people on here like myself have no expertise.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

The origins of the story are completely believable: budding arts students discover fraud of national significance and are shouted down by the establishment. I am sympathetic to this story as a hard-headed student myself at one point. However, it doesn’t do to spend half your life on a crusade going nowhere (art history isn’t exactly going to chage the world no matter what the Da Vinci Code might say).
The authority of the author’s side is simply not credible and reads like something out of a novel. Would Isaiah Berlin (a man not known for hiding controversial opinions) have just gone along with a huge cover up? It discredits his memory rather than enhancing it. A bunch of students having a hunch is not evidence and her own studies – as Sewell unkindly puts it – are in another field. This is not even debated let alone refuted by the author. Quoting two scholars who have seen “high resolution photos” i.e. not inspected it,
More links would have been useful – a frequent refrain from me on a lot if Unherd articles – about why Buchard is “flawed” or why the Antwerp scholars are overly deferential to him for instance. Especially in a specialised subject like this it isnt obvious why the general audience would agree with these statements.

An interesting article but one that I think Unherd should consider having the other side told on, especially as I assume most people on here like myself have no expertise.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

Here’s a question – as a piece of art, is it any good? This is all that matters to me.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It should matter – if it’s not the original. The National Gallery, whilst having charitable status, also relies on public funding (i.e. from the government); in other words, your tax and mine. Paying a significant sum for a copy is a huge waste of public funds.

kaltestern1
kaltestern1
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Whatever the truth may be, there is no way that the National Gallery is going to be able to get the money back. So unless they are contemplating reselling it, at one level it doesn’t actually matter.
Personally I have always hated it – Delilah has breasts that look like bags of marbles to my eye, but it doesn’t matter what I think.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  kaltestern1

Plus, a rather manly shoulder…
I’m not a fan of Rubens (or whoever chooses to copy him). By the time his era came around, history painting was on its last legs and only by the over-emphasis on certain aspects of physicality was he able to make a name for himself. I couldn’t actually care less about his technique – since that’s all it is.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Off course those parvenu Stewarts loved him, particularly that unwashed old botty bandit otherwise known a James I, and his useless son Charles I.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Off course those parvenu Stewarts loved him, particularly that unwashed old botty bandit otherwise known a James I, and his useless son Charles I.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  kaltestern1

Plus, a rather manly shoulder…
I’m not a fan of Rubens (or whoever chooses to copy him). By the time his era came around, history painting was on its last legs and only by the over-emphasis on certain aspects of physicality was he able to make a name for himself. I couldn’t actually care less about his technique – since that’s all it is.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Right you are, Steve. And there’s something else. Why did the tax-supported National Gallery pay the high price for a painting that is not particularly effective from a purely artistic point of view? It’s because the reputed artist’s name is so famous. This purchase was about the gallery’s prestige more than the aesthetic quality of its collection.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Spot on! Thank you.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Spot on! Thank you.

kaltestern1
kaltestern1
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Whatever the truth may be, there is no way that the National Gallery is going to be able to get the money back. So unless they are contemplating reselling it, at one level it doesn’t actually matter.
Personally I have always hated it – Delilah has breasts that look like bags of marbles to my eye, but it doesn’t matter what I think.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Right you are, Steve. And there’s something else. Why did the tax-supported National Gallery pay the high price for a painting that is not particularly effective from a purely artistic point of view? It’s because the reputed artist’s name is so famous. This purchase was about the gallery’s prestige more than the aesthetic quality of its collection.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

No. It’s a lurid mess masquerading as a great master who’s use of light and color were transcendent, and that absolutely should matter.

james goater
james goater
11 months ago

After reading this interesting article, I went to the National Gallery to examine the painting, up close. No way is it an original Rubens! A child of tender years would easily see this, given that it is in the same room along with a number of glorious original Rubens’ paintings and can therefore be closely compared. I questioned an attendant as to whether visitors ever asked after the “Samson and Delilah” painting. At first he replied, “I cannot comment” but when pressed, he said, “You’re not the first to ask this question”. Enough said.

james goater
james goater
11 months ago

After reading this interesting article, I went to the National Gallery to examine the painting, up close. No way is it an original Rubens! A child of tender years would easily see this, given that it is in the same room along with a number of glorious original Rubens’ paintings and can therefore be closely compared. I questioned an attendant as to whether visitors ever asked after the “Samson and Delilah” painting. At first he replied, “I cannot comment” but when pressed, he said, “You’re not the first to ask this question”. Enough said.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It should matter – if it’s not the original. The National Gallery, whilst having charitable status, also relies on public funding (i.e. from the government); in other words, your tax and mine. Paying a significant sum for a copy is a huge waste of public funds.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

No. It’s a lurid mess masquerading as a great master who’s use of light and color were transcendent, and that absolutely should matter.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

Here’s a question – as a piece of art, is it any good? This is all that matters to me.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The international Art market will forever to sullied by the scandalous conduct of the partnership between one Joseph Duveen (UK) and one Bernard Berenson (USA).

Both now reside in the ‘pit of eternal stench’ but the damage they wrought is incalculable.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The international Art market will forever to sullied by the scandalous conduct of the partnership between one Joseph Duveen (UK) and one Bernard Berenson (USA).

Both now reside in the ‘pit of eternal stench’ but the damage they wrought is incalculable.

b blimbax
b blimbax
1 year ago

Ήμουνα έτοιμος να το αγοράσω, άλλα τώρα θα πρέπει να το ξανά σκεφτώ.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  b blimbax

“Caveat emptor!”

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  b blimbax

αν είναι ψεύτικο τότε ίσως θα μπορούσατε να το αντέξετε οικονομικά.

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  b blimbax

“Caveat emptor!”

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  b blimbax

αν είναι ψεύτικο τότε ίσως θα μπορούσατε να το αντέξετε οικονομικά.

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
b blimbax
b blimbax
1 year ago

Ήμουνα έτοιμος να το αγοράσω, άλλα τώρα θα πρέπει να το ξανά σκεφτώ.

Helen Grove-White
Helen Grove-White
1 year ago

Any doubters of the facts of the case as set out by Doxiades would be well advised to go hot-foot to the National Gallery to test out this theory for themselves. The case rests on the material facts as can be seen by the naked eye but is greatly amplified by half a lifetime’s research on the subject. Summaries of this research can be found on the dedicated website, In Rubens Name, https://www.inrubensname.org/. The astonishing part of the story is not the waste of public funds, anyone can make an honest mistake, but in the refusal to square up to it and present the picture to the public as an interesting case study and as the surviving copy of a splendid original. Currently it is shown not just as a real Rubens but as a highlight, one of the best paintings in the gallery.

Helen Grove-White
Helen Grove-White
1 year ago

Any doubters of the facts of the case as set out by Doxiades would be well advised to go hot-foot to the National Gallery to test out this theory for themselves. The case rests on the material facts as can be seen by the naked eye but is greatly amplified by half a lifetime’s research on the subject. Summaries of this research can be found on the dedicated website, In Rubens Name, https://www.inrubensname.org/. The astonishing part of the story is not the waste of public funds, anyone can make an honest mistake, but in the refusal to square up to it and present the picture to the public as an interesting case study and as the surviving copy of a splendid original. Currently it is shown not just as a real Rubens but as a highlight, one of the best paintings in the gallery.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

My husband and I are both professional artists, and it’s funny, but he just walked in as I was finishing this article. “Yeah, I saw that,” he said. “Absolutely. Rubens didn’t paint with those gross greenish grays. It’s obvious.”
Good work, and keep at it, Ms. Doxiadis!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

My husband and I are both professional artists, and it’s funny, but he just walked in as I was finishing this article. “Yeah, I saw that,” he said. “Absolutely. Rubens didn’t paint with those gross greenish grays. It’s obvious.”
Good work, and keep at it, Ms. Doxiadis!

Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago

Fascinating article.
‘But after 1641, that original disappeared’. Are there any theories as to its fate?

Euphrosyne Doxiadis
Euphrosyne Doxiadis
1 year ago
Reply to  Sophy T

After the public auction in Antwerp during which all the contents of Rockox’s house including all art works are sold we really loose its traces. (We have in the Antwerp Archives the 1641 document of the announcement of the auction by the town crier). Sadly we have no document as to who bought what at the auction. Throughout these 339 years from 1641 until 1980 anything could have happened to the original. The past is such a complex maze which is impossible to imagine once it has gone. It could have been burnt in a fire, stored in a basement which flooded, over-painted, forgotten in an attic, in the storage of a small museum or home. Rubens experts from the Rubenianum have given it a totally cockamamy provenance which my long research has proven wrong. No airtight evidence at all. I believe the Catalogue of Rubens’ Engravings by Max Rooses who in around 1800 calls the original Samson and Delilah : “Tableau Inconnu”. He publishes the Engravings of paintings by Rubens including the engraving of Samson and Delilah by the Dutch engraver Jacob Matham of 1613 (one of the two eyewitnesses who copied the original in-situ the other was Frans Francken II who painted a Kunstkammer of Rockox’s Groote Saleth, Great Salon around 1634).Rooses declares the original S&D UNKNOWN. Therefore lost.

Last edited 1 year ago by Euphrosyne Doxiadis
Euphrosyne Doxiadis
Euphrosyne Doxiadis
1 year ago
Reply to  Sophy T

After the public auction in Antwerp during which all the contents of Rockox’s house including all art works are sold we really loose its traces. (We have in the Antwerp Archives the 1641 document of the announcement of the auction by the town crier). Sadly we have no document as to who bought what at the auction. Throughout these 339 years from 1641 until 1980 anything could have happened to the original. The past is such a complex maze which is impossible to imagine once it has gone. It could have been burnt in a fire, stored in a basement which flooded, over-painted, forgotten in an attic, in the storage of a small museum or home. Rubens experts from the Rubenianum have given it a totally cockamamy provenance which my long research has proven wrong. No airtight evidence at all. I believe the Catalogue of Rubens’ Engravings by Max Rooses who in around 1800 calls the original Samson and Delilah : “Tableau Inconnu”. He publishes the Engravings of paintings by Rubens including the engraving of Samson and Delilah by the Dutch engraver Jacob Matham of 1613 (one of the two eyewitnesses who copied the original in-situ the other was Frans Francken II who painted a Kunstkammer of Rockox’s Groote Saleth, Great Salon around 1634).Rooses declares the original S&D UNKNOWN. Therefore lost.

Last edited 1 year ago by Euphrosyne Doxiadis
Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago

Fascinating article.
‘But after 1641, that original disappeared’. Are there any theories as to its fate?

Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago

The whole art market is a racket. Christie’s and Sotheby’s have cancelled Eric Gill because he went to bed with his daughter. Fair enough.
However I doubt very much, given the prices they fetch, that these auctions houses will cancel Picasso or Lucien Freud for mistreating vulnerable women.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Sophy T

“Mistreating vulnerable women”? I wonder if you have a list of flaws that justify cancellation and a list of those that don’t. I for one would be curious.

Lizzie J
Lizzie J
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Sophy can no doubt speak for herself but I don’t think she’s looking to cancel anyone, rather she would like to see Gill uncancelled. Art in its widest sense now seems to be all about the morals and sex (at birth or otherwise) of the artist, not the quality of the work.

Lizzie J
Lizzie J
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Sophy can no doubt speak for herself but I don’t think she’s looking to cancel anyone, rather she would like to see Gill uncancelled. Art in its widest sense now seems to be all about the morals and sex (at birth or otherwise) of the artist, not the quality of the work.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Sophy T

“Mistreating vulnerable women”? I wonder if you have a list of flaws that justify cancellation and a list of those that don’t. I for one would be curious.

Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago

The whole art market is a racket. Christie’s and Sotheby’s have cancelled Eric Gill because he went to bed with his daughter. Fair enough.
However I doubt very much, given the prices they fetch, that these auctions houses will cancel Picasso or Lucien Freud for mistreating vulnerable women.