- The Tower of Babel (Brueghel)
"The Tower of Babel" is an
oil paintingby Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Its subject is the construction of the Tower of Babel, which according to the Biblewas a tower built by humanity to reach heaven.
Brueghel's depiction of the architecture of the tower, with its numerous arches and other examples of
Roman engineering, is deliberately reminiscent of the Roman Colosseum, which Christians of the time saw as both a symbol of hubris and of persecution.
Interestingly, Brueghel's painting seems to attribute the ultimate failure of the Tower to engineering difficulties rather than to sudden, divinely-caused linguistic differences. Although at first glance the tower appears to be stable series of concentric pillars, upon closer examination it is apparent that none of the layers lie at a true horizontal; rather, the tower is built as an ascending spiral. However, the workers in the painting have built the arches perpendicular to the slanted ground, thereby making them unstable, and a few arches can already be seen crumbling. More troubling perhaps is the fact that the foundation and bottom layers of the tower had not been completed before the higher layers were constructed.
The painting was meant to demonstrate the dangers of human pride and perhaps the failure of Classical rationality in the face of the divine. Also, it is an allegory to the
Habsburgs' proud international Empire, based on a unified creed, with bankers, ministers, churchmen and military men, and sycophant humanist thinkers tamed to such project.
title=The "little" Tower of Babel
artist=Pieter Brueghel the Elder
type=oil on panel
museum=Museum Boymans-van Beuningen
"The Tower of Babel" is on display at the
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.Another painting of the same subject, "The "Little" Tower of Babel", c. 1563, is in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningenin Rotterdam.
Tower of Babel
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