Flemish School 16th Century
A Diptych depicting Scenes from the Old Testament
Oil on Panel
86(h) x 64(w) cms
The iconography of Jonah and the Whale is a better known biblical story than that of Samson and the Doors of Gaza. Typically as in many depictions of the story of Jonah he is depicted emerging on the shores of Nineveh from the mouth of the monstrous fish/whale that had swallowed him. Jonah, having previously had grave doubts about his faith, repented and prayed to God for help and God in response released him from the belly of the fish. Here he clasps his hands together in thanks for his salvation. The sharp teeth of the monster are wonderfully rendered and one wonders whether the artist used sharks teeth for his inspiration.
Samson and the Gates of Gaza is a short story from the Bible. Samson was spending the night with a prostitute in the city and he was spotted by the citizens who lay in wait for him in the guardrooms by the gates. They planned to attack him and kill him at sunrise. But in the middle of the night Samson got up and simply removed the gates carrying them off and avoiding the ambush. Here the painter departs from the story and depicts each gate in different hands which certainly makes for a better composition but from the biblical account Samson puts the gates down still closed and locked. In a clever little detail the painter has depicted the open gatehouse of Gaza in the middleground just poking above the foreground.
Private Collection, Spain