Lucas van Leyden

Netherlands, b.1494, d.1533

Samson and Delilah

  • 1507
  • Engraving
  • Purchased 1973
  • 283 x 203mm
  • 73/155

This scene captures the moment when Jewish Biblical hero Samson falls victim to his betrayer Delilah, who cuts his long hair – the secret of his strength – as he sleeps. Lucas van Leyden was a leader in the development of printmaking in early sixteenth-century Europe. Remarkably, he created this engraving while in his early teens.

(Out of Time, 23 September 2023 – 28 April 2024)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • In this print Lucas van Leyden was exploring the theme of the power of women. In the Old Testament story, the source of Samson’s legendary strength was his hair, here being cut off by Delilah. Samson was in love with Delilah and she had been bribed by the Philistines to find out the secret of his strength because they wanted to kill him. This is one of six prints Van Leyden engraved in 1507. He has created a more dramatic image here than in two later versions of the same subject made in the 1520s. A major influence on Van Leyden’s printmaking was Albrecht Dürer (1471 -1528), whom he met in 1521 and who engraved a portrait of Van Leyden. Born in Leyden, Van Leyden was a child prodigy, competently engraving plates at the age of nine. Initially he was tutored by his father, the painter Huygh Jacobsz (c. 1460 -1534/1538) but his strongest influence came from the works of Dürer and the Mannerist Jan Gossaert (1470/1480 - c. 1533). (Label date unknown)