At the centre of this small, symmetrical sketch, we see the biblical hero as he staggers and falls, pulling down with him the pillars of the temple, in which a crowd has gathered. The forceful and sketch-like brushwork creates a flickering, romantic mood for one of the most dramatic scenes from the Old Testament.
Samson was the last of the judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Judges, which consists of stories of the leaders of Israel before the election of Saul as king, which marked the transition from tribal society to organised statehood. Samson’s strength, his fight with a lion, his betrayal by Delilah, his blinding and his spectacular death are all popular subjects in art. The Czech painter Vojtěch Hynais, who was born in Vienna and also trained there, was undoubtedly familiar with the monumental painting Samson and Delilah by Anthony van Dyck at the city’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, to which this sketch corresponds in terms of its symmetry and compositional emphases.
The sketch came to the National Gallery as part of a bequest of the Šubic family and is a practical illustration of the friendship between Vojtěch Hynais (1854–1925) and the brothers Janez and Jurij Šubic. Hynais travelled to Rome with Janez Šubic, while Jurij Šubic joined him in Paris and helped him work on his design for the curtain of the Prague National Theatre.