No Auckland Theology and Religion Advent calendar is complete without an image of my favourite biblical character – the irrepressible and infamous Delilah, from Judges 16. So I have a few Delilah images to share with you this weekend: today, I have one from fine art and tomorrow, we’ll look at some of Delilah’s most glamorous afterlives in pop culture.
So for today’s offering, behold this stunning painting by American artist Terry Strickland, titled Trust and Betrayal, Samson and Delilah.
Delilah is slouching on a velvet draped chair, Samson’s head resting on her lap. She looks dressed for a party, in a shimmery organza frock, which reminds me of a wedding dress, although she appears less the exultant bride than the sated victor of some unnamed battle between herself and the man whose head she cradles. Completely relaxed, she stares nonchalantly at us, daring us, perhaps, to wake the sleeping Samson, and appearing totally unrepentant for what she is about to do with those scissors in her hand. Dressed up as Samson’s lover – even his bride – she is, instead, his betrayer.
Samson, meanwhile, is the slumbering epitome of trust; with no sense of imminent danger, he sleeps deeply, rendering himself vulnerable before the woman to whom he has revealed his deepest secrets. Yet, his naiveté comes at a cost, as this painting hints at all too clearly. Strickland has situated most of Samson’s figure in the shadows, with the result that his head appears to be unattached to a body. This gruesome trompe l’oeil reminds us of his fate and drives home the deadly effects that will be put in motion by Delilah’s actions.