The Tower of Babel

Valckenborch, Marten van (I) (1534-1612) | Painter


The legendary Tower of Babel, a massive, pyramid-like circular structure, towers over a vast, diverse landscape consisting of several different geographical regions. The structure is already inhabited on all floors which are connected by countless staircases and the impression is created that it contains the diverse life of an entire city within its walls. In the darker foreground the legendary king Nimrod, the builder of the tower, is seen under a parasol with his entourage. He is inspecting the workers involved in numerous different trades to complete the construction.
Depictions of the Tower of Babel were one of the most popular and sought-after subjects in landscape painting north of the Alps at the turn of the 17th century. The biblical story of the building of the tower has an existential dimension for the structure reaching "up to heaven" is a symbol of the failure of mankind in its efforts to measure up to God. However, the focus here is not on the destruction of the tower or the scattering of humanity but on the collective striving for the completion of a structure that surpasses all human measure and claims to be like God.

Material & Technique
Oil on oak panel
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Inventory number
Gal.-Nr. 832