15 de maio de 2011

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Babel Tower

Babel Tower - 1563
Kunsthistorischesmuseum - Vienna 

Genesis - Chapter 11: 1 to 9

1 - "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 - And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 - And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

4 - And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5 - And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6 - And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7 - Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8 - So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9 - Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth".
Genesis-chapter 11: 1 to 9

According to the biblical account, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood , speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar a geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia where they resolved to build a city with a tower "with its top in the heavens. The all idea reflects an unfortunate mistake of using their “one language and the same common speech” (Genesis 11: 1) in attempting to become God. They erected a monumental temple thinking that it would reach the Heavens and would thus give them access to absolute divinity. As a result of their deliberate disrespect of God’s invitation to accept His graces and use their communion to fully live their partnership with God and everyone who was different, God confused them and made them speak in different languages without mutually understanding one another. This led to a dispersion of mankind across the Earth. Along the centuries we have seen that the Babel story repeats itself. Men tend always to repeat the same mistakes. We have witnessed daily the construction of new Babel Towers every time someone refuses to focus on the multidisciplinary confrontation of ideas, on the differences, whether their origin comes from race, creed or social background. Men persist on the dictatorships, on the oligarchies, so common in Arab countries and Latin America, that it is not surprising to witness the chaos in several countries caused by today fundamentalism, extremism or by the misuse of religion within countries like in the Middle East. Babel Tower gives us, even today, this concept of Babylonian dispersion. The notion of spreading civilizations, ordained by God, so that all humanity can coexist respecting each other. Babel Tower and the Genesis, give us a lesson of tolerance and peace to which we should all learn.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569) painted the Babel Tower in 1563. In the book illumination of the Early and High Middle Ages, local buildings that were less than monumental were used as models for the architecture of the Tower of Babel. Starting on the 16 th century, artists oriented themselves on the Mesopotamian type of step-shaped ziggurat (temple tower), which, however, was rectangular rather than round. Bruegel’s monumental composition had several forerunners in Netherlandish painting, but his work became the famous classic among the Tower of Babel depiction and was frequently copied in many different variations.

The sense of scale is provided by the Flemish-style port city, which is impressively tiny in companion to the tower. With meticulous precision an encyclopedic interest Bruegel depicts an abundance of technical and mechanical details, from the supply of the building materials in the busy harbor to the various cranes and the scaffolding on the unfinished brick foundation. He sets the workers’ dwellings into the stone outer structure, which blends elements of classical with Romanesque architecture, and they appear to be more than merely temporary. By anchoring the building on the rocky slope, Bruegel creates the impression of static equilibrium. Reaching up to the clouds, the building, however, is optically distorted and appears to have slightly sunk into the ground on the left side. This is an artistic gesture, on the one hand enhancing the impression of the building’ s monumentally, and on the other hand alluding to human hubris and the impossibility of completing the tower because,

“the Lord confused the language of all the Earth”. Genesis 11:9.

If you care to know some History theories about the place where Babel Tower was built, you’ll find on this page some interesting perspectives.
Source: Kunsthistorischesmuseum Guide, Wikipedia

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