Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens
About the Exhibition Online Exhibition Timeline Catalog Essays Teacher Resources Credits

Click on a heading in the left frame to view a group of oil sketches relating to a particular theme, or select a thumbnail to see and read more about an individual work. Texts are adapted from the exhibition catalog. Purchase the catalog.


The Church Triumphant

Rubens as Entrepreneur: Designs for Sculpture, Architecture and Prints

History and Politics: Glory to the Hero

The Workings of the Studio: Head Studies, Portrait and Genre

Myth and Majesty: The Humanistic Tradition

Landscape and Hunt Scenes: Projects for Philip IV


These three dramatic depictions of the biblical story of Samson and Delilah demonstrate the role that oil sketches played in Rubens's development of subjects and compositions in preparation for a finished work of art. In about 1609, after first working out his ideas in a pen-and-ink sketch, Rubens painted the highly detailed modello of Samson and Delilah, which he showed to his patron for approval before commencing the final large painting. A few years after the final painting was completed, this modello was used by the Dutch printmaker Jacob Matham to make an engraving after Rubens's composition. In the Capture of Samson sketch, probably also painted in about 1609, Rubens explores the next moment in the narrative.

Peter Paul Rubens
Samson and Delilah, probably 1609
Oil on panel, 52.1 x 50.5 cm
Cincinnati Art Museum, Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Leyman Endowment,
acc. no. 1972.459

About this work

Peter Paul Rubens
The Capture of Samson, ca. 1609-10
Oil on panel, 50.4 x 66.4 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Robert A. Waller Memorial Fund, acc. no. 1923.551

About this work

Jacob Matham after Peter Paul Rubens
Samson and Delilah, probably 1613
Engraving, 37.5 x 44.1 cm
Cincinnati Art Museum, The Harry S. Leyman and Eva Belle Leyman Fund, acc. no. 1973.740M

About this work

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