Art Spotlight: 'Two Mothers' by Faivre

'Deux meres' by Leon-Maxime Faivre, 1888 Art Media/Print Collector/Getty

Each time I come across this painting the work manages to give me pause. For starters, I should say that the realism of the scene, especially in terms of human anatomy, certainly speaks to the viewer -- as do other works of Leon-Maxime Faivre (1856 - 1941) and his fellow 19th century realists. I've also spent a good bit of time pondering how this prehistoric mother managed such a fashionable hairstyle.

But that's all beside the point. The work is titled "Two Mothers" for a reason. We see the human matriarch clearly, while the second mother approaches from the darkness of the cave, little more than the threat of death veiled in shadow.

No matter how unrealistic the hairstyle, the work leaves us with the stark, horrifying truth of our evolutionary ascent. Before we effectively removed ourselves from the food chain and subjugated or extinguished our competition, we were prey.

And as with every other creature on Earth, violent death was not merely a possibility. It was something of a promise.

You can view more of Fairvre's work right here.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.