BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussel)

The Tower of Babel

Oil on oak panel, 114 x 155 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Bruegel has placed the building site in a coastal landscape; the Netherlanders acquired a considerable proportion of their wealth from maritime activities. The tower is also situated near a river, since it was along the waterways, and not via the unpaved country roads, that bulk goods were transported in those days.

Bruegel's Tower has marked similarities to the Colosseum and other Roman monuments, which the artist would have seen during his stay in Italy ten years earlier. The parallel of Rome and Babylon had a particular significance for Bruegel's contemporaries. Rome was the Eternal City, intended by the Caesars to last for ever, and its decay and ruin were taken to symbolize the vanity and transience of earthly efforts.

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