An old master painting paid as a bribe to Hitler’s deputy, Hermann Goering, is to go on show at the Barber institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, this week.

Jan’s Steen’s Samson and Delilah, painted in 1668 will be shown at the gallery Institute’s exhibition Pride and Persecution: Jan Steen’s Old Testament Scenes, which runs from Friday 27 October to 21 January 2018.

It’s not the first time the Old Testament themed painting has been in the city. The work was first brought to the Barber Institute in May 1939 shortly after the outbreak of World War Two by Jewish art dealer Kurt Walter Bachstitz, along with other Jan Steen’s other work The Wrath of Ahasuerus of 1668.

The Barber Institute of Fine Art.
The Barber Institute of Fine Art.

Samson and Delilah returned with Bachstitz to his principal gallery in The Hague, but when the Nazis invaded and occupied The Netherlands in May 1940, Bachstitz was imprisoned and then later emigrated to Switzerland. To secure his freedom he had to bribe senior Nazi Goering with two necklaces and Steen’s Samson and Delilah.

After the war, Bachstitz and his wife returned to live in The Hague, where he died in 1949.

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After Goering was captured Samson and Delilah was among works restituted to Bachstitz’s estate shortly afterwards. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art bought the paintings in the 1980s.

And now Brummies have a chance to view this historical masterpiece.

The Pride and Persecution exhibition’s curator, Barber Deputy Director Robert Wenley, said: "Jan Steen is often thought of as a painter of comic and often chaotic, gently moralising genre scenes.

“But these perhaps less familiar paintings depicting Old Testament stories fully exemplify Steen’s unparalleled abilities as a narrative artist.

‘It also poignant to have these two particular paintings reunited in the gallery – dramatic masterpieces with their own fascinating stories of Jewish history the World War 2.

That Samson and Delilah came to be owned by Goreing, one of the chief prosecutors of Jews lends it a particular poignancy.”

Pride and Persecution: Jan Steen’s Old Testament Scenes at The Barber Institute runs from Friday 27 October to 21 January 2018.