By mid-eighteenth century Pompeo Batoni prevailed as the leading portraitist in Rome catering to an elite clientele of wealthy tourists from the British Isles. Decades earlier, he had launched his career painting historical and biblical subjects, and he continued to depict such subjects in a dignified, classicizing style throughout his career. In Samson and Delilah, Batoni depicts the crucial moment of betrayal in the Old Testament tale. Succumbing to the Philistine woman’s flattery and strong drink, Samson breaks his vow and shares the secret of his strength: “A razor has never come upon my head...if I be shaved, then my strength will leave me” (Judg. 16:17) Quickly, Delilah shears his long hair and summons her guard who burst into the chamber to seize him. Delilah remains serene with Samson, now powerless, recumbent at her feet. Both figures appear calm amidst the chaos and are forged in the noble model of ancient statuary.
From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Italian, 1708-1787
  • Samson and Delilah
Date 1766
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Framed: 93 1/2 × 68 1/4 × 3 11/16 inches (237.5 × 173.4 × 9.4 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund
Accession Number 2003.31
Department European Painting
On View European: Grand Tour of Italy, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed and dated, on the frame of the bed, at the lower right: P. BATONI PINXIT/ROMAE ANNO 1766
private collection (Europe);
1987-2003, (Matthiesen Gallery, London, England);
2003-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
The Settecento: Italian Rococo and Early Neo-Classical Paintings, 1700–1800. Exh. cat., Matthiesen Gallery. London, 1987, pp. 92–94, no. 16 (ill.), pl. 17 (ill.).

Brigstocke, Hugh. "The Settecento at Matthiesen, London." The Burlington Magazine 129, no. 1017 (1987): pp. 820, 821, fig. 38 (ill.).

"New Acquisitions." Bulletin of the DIA 78, no. 3/4 (2004): pp. 24, 28 (ill.).

Bissell, R. Ward, Andria Derstine and Dwight Miller. Masters of Italian Baroque Painting: The Detroit Institute of Arts. London, 2005, pp. 11, 26–27, no. 8 (ill.).

Bowron, Edgar Peters. Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, vol. 1. New Haven, 2016, pp. 382–383, no. 309 (ill.).

Derstine, Andria. "The Detroit Institute of Arts and Italian Baroque Painting." In Buying Baroque: Italian Seventeenth-Century Paintings Come to America, ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. University Park, 2017, p. 102.