Below, left is a painting by Salomon de Bray of Samson with the Jawbone (1636, oil on canvas, 622mm x 508mm).
I first saw this painting at the Getty Museum, terribly jet-lagged, in Los Angeles in 2004 and it grabbed my attention once more in 2008. First, I was interested in the facial structure, isometrically distorted, similar to Da Vinci's lost painting Madonna of the Yarnwinder (circa 1501). Second, the liquid coming out of the jawbone. Here's the reason for this symbolism (taken from the Getty Website):
Holding the jawbone as his attribute, Samson looks upward, perhaps to God. The great strongman slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:19). Overcome by thirst, he then drank from the rock at Lechi, a name that also means "jawbone" in Hebrew. Due to a mistaken translation in the Dutch Bible, some artists depicted Samson with a jawbone, rather than the rock, issuing water.
I've used this symbol in my painting on the right, called Measured Sadness, as this for me, reinforces the multiplicity of meanings in the symbolism of historical art and the signifiers I use in my paintings to re-interpret my historical interests, while still trying to push forward. Everything means something, yet it can still act like mercury - reforming itself constantly. I'm not so much interested in the posterity of my work, but from the other direction - time often changes meaning.

Blog Archive