Breaking news: The National Gallery Takes Immediate Action

"Many thanks for your email to Dr Gabriele Finaldi which he has passed on to me, as this matter relates to a video that was made as part of the National Gallery’s Learning Programme. Thank you so much for taking the time to raise your concerns with us. I am so sorry that the video has caused offence, and I have asked our digital team to remove it from YouTube immediately. I do hope that your members will continue to engage with the National Gallery and enjoy our collection, and thank you once again for making us aware of this important issue.
"Yours sincerely,
"Karen Eslea, Head of Learning and National Programmes"

 

“Lecturer calls Samson a ‘terrorist’.”

Paris, 1st June 2020

A letter to Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the British National Gallery (NG), from Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, noted a complaint from a member. Apparently – in the aftermath of the recent antisemitic blood libel furore surrounding an Italian painting – a bizarre altercation with a colleague had taken place over a YouTube presentation of the Rubens painting of Samson and Delilah in the National Gallery.
See: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGmST-tPbGs>

The letter drew attention to the NG online glossary, which calls Samson “an Israelite hero who was a scourge of the Philistines,” consonant with the Biblical account in the Book of Judges.
See: <https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/glossary/samson-and-delilah>

The colleague viewed the “Israelites” as “Israelis” and the “Philistines” as “Palestinians.”

Samuels reported that, “this amalgam was enflamed by a YouTube presentation by lecturer artist James Heard who, between minutes 7:56 until 8:46, speaks of ‘the Israelite Samson, who in essence was a terrorist who slaughtered 1,000 Philistines’...”

He added, “even more odd is Heard’s statement that Samson ‘took 300 foxes, tieing torches to their tails’ and setting them alight ‘sent them into the cornfields of the Israelites’... leading to the conclusion – in the colleague’s parlance – that Samson was a ‘double agent’.”

See <https://biblehub.com/judges/15-4.htm> makes clear that Samson, indeed, sent the foxes against his enemy – the Philistines.

“Mr. Director, we understand that this very beautiful painting has been property of the National Gallery since the 1980s... During that period – as in the case of other masterpieces – it has been subject to continuous research and academic interpretation.”

“Mr. Heard’s presentation is contentious and erroneous. We urge the National Gallery to request YouTube to remove ‘the clip’ to avoid any further misunderstanding or politicization,” concluded the Centre.