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The Tower of Babel
By Pieter Brueghel the Younger
Oil on oak panel
Size: 145 x 176.5 cm
Estimated price: £2-3 million.

The Tower of Babel is one of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s earliest and most monumental paintings. With acute attention to detail, the picture is meticulously painted on a primed wood panel constructed of six horizontally aligned sections of oak. The subject is taken from the Book of Genesis and represents Nimrod and his entourage’s God defying attempt to construct a tower to reach the heavens that resulted in them being scattered across the face of the earth.

The theme of the painting is believed to symbolise the destructive nature of human pride and the disillusionment felt towards the Christian Church at the time. Brueghel the Younger’s paintings were often based on his father’s compositions and this painting relates to Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s masterpiece of 1563 now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The distinctive composition used by both father and son belongs to the 16th century tradition of depicting the ‘World Landscape’, where a landscape is shown from a high vantage point that extends towards a broad and indefinite horizon, representing the vast stage that man occupies. Unlike his father’s version, Brueghel the Younger chose to deepen the foreground, extending the flat ground between the foot of the tower and woodland in front, resulting in a greater sense of perspective and a larger picture plane.

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 24, 2012.

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