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

The Tower of Babel (detail)

Oil on oak panel
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The hectic activity of the engineers, masons and workmen points to a second moral - the futility of much human endeavour. Nimrod's doomed building was used to illustrate this meaning in Sebastian Brant's Ship of Fools. Bruegel's knowledge of building procedures and techniques is considerable and correct in detail. The skill with which he has shown these activities recalls that his very last commission, left unfinished at his death, was for a series of documentary paintings recording the digging of a canal linking Brussels and Antwerp.

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