Cain and Abel were the two eldest sons of Adam and Eve. As told in the Bible, both made offerings to God but when Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, he killed his brother in a jealous rage.

This is an early painting in Peter Paul Rubens’s career. His large, muscular figures are heavily influenced by his recent study in Italy of ancient sculpture and of works by the Renaissance artist Michelangelo.

Courtauld Insight

‘This work was painted on planks of oak assembled by one of Antwerp’s
specialist panel makers. They usually removed the sapwood, the most recent and therefore fragile growth, to create a strong, durable panel. In this case, however, the sapwood remains, suggesting that Rubens wanted to save money. He probably bought the panel himself and made the painting for the open market.’

Clare Richardson, Lecturer in Easel Painting Conservation, The Courtauld


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