“Samson” by Solomon J. Solomon: Victorian academy and Jewish identity

Samson, a monumental painting (244 x 366 cms, plate 1) by the Anglo Jewish artist Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927), was exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1887.1 It depicts the dramatic climax to the biblical account of Samson’s relationship with Delilah, when he discovers that she has betrayed him to the Philistines, and he struggles to free himself from their soldiers’ chains.

Samson was displayed prominently in Gallery VI of Burlington House and attracted much public attention. Soon after the exhibition opened, Samson was acquired by the art dealer Raphael Isaacs for 1000 guineas, evidence of Solomon’s growing reputation.2 The interest that the painting generated while exhibited at the Royal Academy continued afterwards, and it became a landmark in Solomon’s artistic career. It was referred to in most publications concerning the artist and was Solomon’s entry permit into the late Victorian art

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