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    Sale 2175

    Old Masters and 19th Century Art

    4 June 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 151

    Théodore Chassériau (El Limón 1819-1856 Paris)

    The Punishment of Cain (Caïn Maudit)

    Price Realised  


    This lot is offered without a reserve

    Théodore Chassériau (El Limón 1819-1856 Paris)
    The Punishment of Cain (Caïn Maudit)
    signed and dated 'T. Chasseriau. 1836' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    47½ x 64 in. (120.7 x 162.6 cm.)

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    Chassériau's first masterpiece depicts a famous episode from the Old Testament book of Genesis (4:8-15): a grief-stricken Cain in exile in the wilderness with his wife and children. The son of Adam and Eve, Cain had, in an envious rage, attacked and killed his brother Abel; as punishment, God made the farmer a fugitive and vagabond and put a mark on him so that he should be recognized. The sixteen-year-old Chassériau made a spectacular Paris Salon debut in 1836 with this ambitious painting and The Return of the Prodigal Son (Museé des Beaux-Arts, La Rochelle), another exploration of 'family ruptures and the trauma of original sin' (as Stephane Guégan has observed). A dark vision of fratricide and hopeless remorse set in a sinister and unforgiving landscape, the bleak but haunting Punishment of Cain was awarded a medal for History painting from the King and was sold almost immediately to the collector François-Victor-Emmanuel Arago for 500 francs, launching Chassériau's brief but successful career.

    Special Notice

    This lot is offered without reserve.


    Purchased from the artist in early 1836 by
    François-Victor-Emmanuel Arago, Paris.
    J.M. Stratton, Greenwich, CT; Sotheby's, New York, 28 May 1981, lot 21.

    Pre-Lot Text



    E.-J. Delécluze, 'Salon de 1836', Journal des Débats, 30 April 1836.
    A. Decamps, 'Le Salon', Le National, 1 May 1836.
    V. Chevillard, Un Peintre Romantique: Théodore Chassériau, Paris, 1893, pp. 14, 275, no. 51.
    M. Sandoz, Théodore Chassériau, 1819-1856: catalogue raisonné des peintures et estampes, Paris, 1974, p. 118-9, no. 25; pp. 10, 20-1, 439, 440, pl. XVII.
    L.-A. Prat, Dessins de Théodore Chassériau, Paris, 1988, I, p. 56, cited under nos. 1, 2, 4, 5.
    J.P. Ribner, 'Chassériau's Juvenilia: Some early works by an Enfant du Siècle', Zeirschrift für Kunstgeschichte, LVII, no. 2, 1994, pp. 230-3, note 20.
    C. Peltre, Théodore Chassériau, Paris, 2001, p. 57.
    C. Chagneau, S. Guégan, and V. Pomarède, et al., in Chassériau, un autre romantisme, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2002, pp. 32-3, 37, 71, 170, under no.4.
    J.P. Ribner, 'Théodore Chassériau and the Anti-Heroic Mode under the July Monarchy', Chassériau (1819-1856), un autre romantisme: Actes du colloque organisé par le Musée du Louvre, le 16 Mars 2002, Paris, 2002, pp. 14-6, 24, note 3.


    Paris, Salon, 1836, no. 336.