Monday, July 25, 2016

Cain's Banishment

Alice C. Linsley

For the past 2 years I have been purchasing books on art history and exploring the paintings based on Biblical stories. Recently, I was stuck by this image of the banishment of Cain and his clan. Do you see what the painter has done?

What aligns with the data of Scripture and what does not?

Is the landscape realistic for the place and time Cain lived? Or has the painter portrayed these refugees as belonging to a period to which they do not belong; rendering an anachronism?

What are your thoughts on the title given to the painting?

What are your thoughts about the different hair colors and skin tones?

Cain flying before Jehovah's Curse (1880)
Painting by Fernand Cormon, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The French painter Fernand Anne Piestre Cormon (1845 - 1924) had a great influence on the history of painting as the teacher of such illustrious artists as:  Emile BernardViktor Borisov-Musatov, George Hendrik Breitner, Thorvald Erichsen, Vincent van GoghCharles C.J. Hoffbauer, Thorolf HolmboeEugene-Leon Labitte, Georges Le MeilleurHenri MatisseArmand Point, Edward Potthast, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The names Cain and Abel come from the Greek Septuagint, a 2,000 year old Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, where their names are written as "Kain" and "Abel." In Hebrew, Cain is קין (qayin) and Abel is הבל (havel). Havel means to be empty, in the sense of being empty of substance. 

The word קין (qayin, from the root QN) means to acquire or possess something which is why Eve said "I have gotten/acquired (qanah, also from the root QN) a man" (Gen 4:1). For more on the meaning of Cain and Abel, see Jeff Benner's The Untold Story of Cain and Abel.


The Veritopian said...

Hi Alice,
I don't see any resemblance between the picture and the story at all.
I wonder if it's a cipher...?
Which Biblical stories could it represent? I'm not sure...
The setting as desert/wilderness symbolises banishment.
The patriarch at the lead, & wife on the platform thing, look very old, but Abraham & Sarah only had 1 child, so it's not them... And Cain was supposedly alone, poor chap didn't even have a brother after he selfishly died... ;)
The dead animal behind her looks like a kangaroo... That doesn't help...
Interesting puzzle. :)

Alice C. Linsley said...

The painting raises many interesting questions, doesn't it?

It says a great deal about the perceptions of the French painter Fernand Cormon and the period in which he lived from 1845 to 1924.

Cormon is probably correct that Cain already had a wife and his being sent away from his people involved his being accompanied by a group. This would have been Cain's half-sister wife. In the land of Nod/Nok, where he settled, he would have married his second wife, probably a cousin, and the daughter of another Proto-Saharan ruler Nok/Enoch. She named their first born son Enoch after her father, according to the cousin bride's naming prerogative.

J Eppinga said...

I was looking for Cain, and then realized that he's out in front (and why not?).

Then I realized that the artist portrayed Cain as an old man in spectacular physical shape. Which presents two problems.

1) Primitive cultures regard fatness as a sign of wealth. Cain was a ruler who most certainly was wealthy (e.g., he built a city for his son). I would expect him to have a pot belly, especially if he's old.

2) Cain's sin is that of a rash young man. The sarcastic way he tries to get out of trouble, is also most certainly from the mouth of a rash young man.

I'm not particularly bothered by skin tones or hair color. Artists work with models, and he would have worked with what he had. I am impressed with his use of light and skin tone. I can't tell if the folks in the painting are brown skinned, or light skinned. Harsh sunlight tends to play tricks on our eyes.

DManA said...

All their legs are in exactly the same position, as if they are marching in lock step.

Except Cain's left leg is forward and everyone else has their right leg forward.

Must be some symbolism there.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Jay, Cain is the archetype of an archaic ruler and therefore, he would be leading his clan.

Red hair is common in the R1b Haplogroup. The very dark hair is also.

Phil Latimer said...

The painting is interesting in that it shows no beasts of burden (donkeys, horses, oxen, etc) being used. They must carry their own loads. A symbol of leaving in haste from the wrath of God, perhaps? I see a dog tagging along in the rear.

Jonathan said...

The big question from the era in which this painting was done, that I would be looking for as a clue to artist's message, is what could it be depicting as the "mark of Cain". Not as a dark skin color, evidently. The people are rather pale. Did this artist subscribe to the theory (Abba Arika) that the "mark of Cain" was that God put a dog on Cain's trail? There is one (or two?) there. Odd, though, that the dog in this painting appears to be one of the domesticated types (!), whereas the carcasses on the sledge look rather undomesticated, and there are no draught animals helping to pull it. And, I guess the wheel had not been invented yet!! Cain has some primitive stone tools on him, but amongst the group there appears to be one awesome looking forged weapon made of some kind of iron or bronze or some kind of metal. The iron age has begun! Cain's clan seems to have been converted entirely from being committed tillers of the soil to being hunters all around!

Alice C. Linsley said...

A great comment, Jonathan. I too observed the tools. "Primitive" tools continued to be used well into the Iron Age among Abraham's ancestors. The ritual flint knife is an example.

Dogs were domesticated early and were used to guard and hunt.