The Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel is a painting produced in 1563 by Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel The Elder.

One of the most memorable paintings with a biblical motif, and has been made in three version, of which the second is the largest and most famous.

The story of the Tower of Babel is from the Book of Genesis, but similar version of the story can also be found in Babylonian book of creation, Enuma Elish. Unified and monolingual humanity has decided to build a tower that would reach the sky. God decided to punish them with Confusion of Tongues, because of their vanity. Since that moment humanity has lost its unique language. The painting was probably commissioned by Nicholas Jonghelinck, Antwerp merchant. The artist presented the Tower of Babel as reminiscence of the Roman Coliseum. Although the tower reaches heaven, it is visibly cracking down since it is built on poor foundations – human vanity. Landscape on the painting is not biblical, but it reminds of Dutch landscapes. The artist suggests that the metaphorical meaning of the tower of Babel refers to the humanity, regardless of time and space.

The work can be viewed at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Artist: Pieter Bruegel The Elder
Location: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Medium: Oil on Canvas
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