The sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel desired to offer sacrifices to God. Cain, who worked in the fields, offered the fruits of the land, while Abel, who was a shepherd, offered the firstborn of his flock. God showed favor to Abel's sacrifice over Cain's. The latter then took revenge on his brother, murdering him. In Vernet's scene, the sacrifices still burn in the moonlight.
The son of an artist and the father of the painter Horace Vernet, Claude-Joseph Vernet trained in Italy as a marine painter. His career in Rome lasted twenty years, during which he developed great facility in depicting changing skies. His fame grew, so Louis XV called him back to France in 1753. A member of the Académie Royale, Vernet concentrated on stormy and moonlit scenes in later years.