Trained in the studio of Giambologna, de Vries became one of the most celebrated sculptors in Europe. He spent much of his career in Prague and was appointed King’s Sculptor to Emperor Rudolf II in 1601. It was during this period that Cain and Abel was commissioned.
In the early 1600s, Rudolf was involved in a bitter dispute with his brother Matthias, which culminated in Rudolf being overthrown and imprisoned. Cain and Abel almost certainly relates to this episode; depicting the story of a violent struggle between brothers.