Samson Slaying a Philistine
Yearc. 1562
LocationVictoria and Albert Museum, London

Samson Slaying a Philistine is a c, 1562 marble sculpture by Giambologna. It is the earliest of his marble groups for the sculptor to the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and the only substantial work by the artist to have left Italy. It was commissioned in around 1562 by Francesco de' Medici for a fountain in Florence, but was later sent as a gift to Spain, being placed in Palacio de la Ribera, Valladolid.

The group was presented to the Prince of Wales, later King Charles I in 1623 and Samson Slaying a Philistine soon became the most famous Italian sculpture in England. On its arrival in England it was given to the king's favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, and subsequently changed hands three times before coming to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1954.


The sculpture shows Samson wielding the jawbone of an ass in order to slay one of the Philistines who have taunted him. It is a good example of the multiple viewpoints seen in Giambologna's work; the spiralling movement of the bodies means that there is no main view. The dramatic pose is based on a composition by Michelangelo, who was in his late seventies when Giambologna met him in Rome. The group was carved from just one block of marble, supported by only five narrow points. Although the marble is weathered from three centuries outdoors, it still shows Giambologna's sensitive carving.

See also