Lucas van Leyden, Samson and Delilah, a copperplate engraving

Holland, AD 1508

The Old Testament

The print depicts a scene from the Old Testament story of Samson and Delilah in Judges: 16. While Samson sleeps, the treacherous Delilah cuts his hair, the source of his might, with the blades of her scissors. Samson's legendary strength is lost, and the Philistine soldiers lurking in the background move forward to overpower him.

Lucas van Leyden (about 1489/94 -1533) was the son of a painter, and mastered the art of engraving at an early age. If he was born in Leyden in 1494, as a biographical account of 1604 states, then he was only fourteen when he engraved this print. Lucas was to become the greatest northern European printmaker of the sixteenth century after Albrecht Dürer, whose work he studied closely. His debt to Dürer is clear here: the composition and the foreshortened figure of Samson are adapted from a Dürer woodcut of Hercules. Lucas dined with Dürer when the German artist visited the Netherlands in 1521; Dürer drew Lucas' portrait, and exchanged a set of his own prints for a set by Marcantonio Raimondi. Interestingly, after this date, Lucas adopted an Italianate, classical figure style, at least partly derived from Marcantonio Raimondi's engravings of the same period.

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More information


F.W.H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish etchings, en, vol. X (Amsterdam, 1949)

D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance print 1470-155 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994)

A. Griffiths (ed.), Landmarks in print collecting (London, The British Museum Press)


Height: 284.000 mm
Width: 203.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1910-2-12-316 (Bartsch 25; Hollstein 25)


Bequeathed by George Salting


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