This work owes much to Rubens' Samson and Delilah now in the National Gallery, London and was for a long time attributed to him. Van Dyck was at this time working in Rubens' studio, but his special status - he was already an established master in his own right - is demonstrated by the fact that he did not scruple to 'improve' the composition to suit his own ideas. The artist displayed even at twenty his mastery of textures - the luxurious skin tones, satin, velvet and brocade. The subject is from the Book of Judges (XVI, 19), and depicts the moment when one of the Philistines tries to cut Samson's hair - the source of his strength - without waking him. His secret was given away by his lover Delilah, who had been bribed by the Philistines.