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The Tower of Babel (Valckenborch)


The Tower of Babel, major work of the Flemish painter Lucas van Valckenborch, is the symbol of the pride of man who claims to be able to do without God. This theme, borrowing from utopia and vanity, literally fascinated many artists of the 16th and 17th centuries. Valckenborch also painted at least half a dozen (Munich, Koblenz, Mainz, etc.) under the decisive influence of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Vienna version, 1563 and Rotterdam version, 1568).

Lucas van Valckenborch, the landscape painter

Lucas van Valckenborch (born 1535 in Louvain - buried February 2, 1597 in Frankfurt am Main) was a Flemish landscape painter in the lineage of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He is mainly interested in seasonal scenes, in which he represents the work of the peasants but also market scenes. His paintings often give an impression of great precision and emerge from the imagination.

The Tower of Babel, his major work

In Hebrew, Babel literally means "confusion". This is the key to this parable, both religious and moral in character which highlights the dangers of claiming to be equal with God, and which questions us about the need for humanity to talk to each other, to make the effort to understand each other in order to carry out major projects.

In the foreground, we can see Nimrod, the king who initiated the construction of the tower. Son of Astarte and grandson of Noah, he rebelled against God and succeeded in making his people believe that the city they will build will only have for goal to protect them against their enemies. A tower high enough so that its top reaches the sky (at least as high as Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark was reportedly grounded), so that the waves cannot submerge the top in the event of another Flood.

This work is exhibited at the Louvre museum.


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