What are the paintings created by Abel in the first half of Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo's novel Abel Sanchez? What significance does each of them have? 

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 2 of Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo's Abel Sanchez, the characters Abel and Joaquin discuss Abel painting Helena's portrait as a means of Joaquin impressing her. Helena is Joaquin's cousin whom Joaquin is also in love with. At first Joaquin suggests painting her as a female peacock, but Abel enthusiastically describes her as an excellent model and asks permission to do a realistic portrait:

As a model, she's excellent! Really excellent, my friend! What eyes! What a mouth! A mouth both full and formed ... eyes which do not quite look at you ... and what a neck! Above all, what color, what complexion! (p. 12-13)

While the completed portrait becomes a huge success, sadly, during the sittings, Helena confesses how much she really dislikes Joaquin, and both Abel and Helena become lovers and soon marry, which instigates Joaquin's intense feeling of hatred for Abel.

Another painting Abel completes in the early part of the book is a work depicting the scene in the Old Testament in which the biblical Abel was murdered by his brother Cain. In another conversation, Abel describes to Joaquin that he intends to paint both Cain and Abel nude in flesh and nude in soul. He describes that for Cain, he wants to paint "the soul of envy" (p. 56). The two further go on to discuss how God had made Cain hateful of Abel and how Abel had provoked Cain's hatred as well, which underscores the book's theme of Joaquin's hatred for the novel's character Abel. Again, the painting is very successful, and Joaquin gives a speech at a banquet in honor of the painting; his speech is praised as its own work of art, which makes Joaquin hate Abel even more. In addition, the painting foreshadows what Joaquin will soon to Abel, just like the biblical Abel.

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