Tower of Babel (Detail)

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Tower of Babel, 1563. Oil on panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) was a captivating 16th century Flemish painter specializing in landscape and genre scenes. Brueghel looked to classical architecture, particularly the Roman Colosseum, to inform his design for the Tower of Babel. Brueghel visited Rome in 1552 where he learned the local population considered the ancient Colosseum to be a symbol of hubris and Christian persecution—not the revered structure it is today. Nimrod, King of Shinar, who according to the Book of Genesis was the great-grandson of Noah, leads the gathering of officials in the lower left. Brueghel executed three versions of this work; a second version resides in Rotterdam and the third is lost.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Tower of Babel, 1563. Oil on panel, Kuntshistorische Museum, Vienna, Austria.

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