A critical analysis of the paintings of the Tower of Babel directly suggest the perspective of the both the translation and labor that refer to the utopian spirit of social critique as well as to the resistance to the authority. The art paintings appear to embody an expectation of a multiplicity of tongues as a result of the harsh judgment from the Supreme Being. The Tower of Babel may not be a realized vision. It can be understood in an angle where the Utopian ideal was to be discovered. The Utopian discourse was presented in a manner that allowed the 15th century society to be skeptical of the movements of its compass bearers (Carmody 27).
The fine art representing the Tower of Babel is very useful to observers since it offers a kind of a problem-solving capacity that can enable one to think through the emerging political, social, and cultural transformations. The Tower of Babel paintings clearly portrays the translation of the Biblical story into a formal picture speaking orate. It depicts a ziggurat-like tower reaching advancing towards heaven ; yet at the same instance, the people involved in the construction seem to be doing something more by creating an event, a mythical event, full of consequences (Lendering 39).
Varieties of sources have been outsourced together to give more weight to these arts. There exist many contractions depicted within them, and it is so surprising that the same sources have raised many interpretations and translations. The argument here is that within this multiplicity of labors and tongues of translation, a bewildering kind of personal freedom can be said to arise out of the Babel’s ruins. The Tower of Babel’s representation of the dissimilarity between the dithering hubris of a king and the hard work of his subjects entails the translating or the re-authoring of the initial story. This can as well imply a challenging of the authority of both the original and the subsequent significance of both the processes of translation in any particular social transformation.
Bruegel made the walls of the tower in the year 1553 to 1568. The second Tower of Babel, a large panel painting, of 114 x 155 cm, is kept in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, signed, and dated by the artist in 1563. Mostly considered to be commissioned by the Nichalaes Jong lick the later outcome of this Vienna painting was the paving of the way into Emperor Rudolph II. The Emperor assumingly purchased the smaller third Tower Babel, 59.9 x 74.6 cm; it is neither dated not signed. It has, however, been attributed to a variety of dates from 1563 and 1568. Presently, it is housed in the museum Boymans Van Beuningen Rotterdam (Lyons 112).
The Genesis description of the Tower of Babel is stereotypically seen as the source of Bruegel’s paintings. It is argued that Nimrod, the leader of Shem, settled together with his people in the land of Shinar (Carmody, 102). According to Genesis 11:1-4, “Throughout the earth men spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary they said to one another, ‘let us build ourselves a town and a tower with its top reaching heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we may not be scattered about the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-4). After God’s identification of what they were doing, “they are all a single people with a single language this is but the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to do. Come let us go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another” (Genesis 11:1-4).
What followed was God’s pronunciation of the word `Babel 'and confused three language of all human race, thus scattering everyone over to the face of the earth. Through this, God assured these men that the so-called Babel project remains incomplete and unsuccessful, as well. This act shows that God Himself initiated the necessity for translation; a process that prompted philosopher Jacques Derrida to stress that full communication becomes impossible after the Babel. This story of the Tower of Babel, as the source of Bruegel’s painting, can be considered plurality in itself (Rovira 16). At Bruegel’s time, people witnessed a multitude of versions of the story. According to the pointer by Art historian Margaret Carroll, apart from Genesis, (fifth Century) wrote of an enormous tower in Babylon. Further, Flavius Josephus (in Jewish Antiquities) attributes the plan to construct “Tower of Babylon” to Nimrod, the first king of the Babylonians.
Saint Augustine (In the City of God) identified Babel with Babylon and attributed the plan for the tower to Nimrod who is both an oppressor and a deceiver. According to the Augustine’s introspective, Babel is recognized as sinful, an earthly city, same to Rome, which Augustine identifies as “that other Babylon of the west”. Looking at the general historical and social perspective, The Tower of Babel have been interpreted as reflecting the linguistic and cultural challenges that face the multicultural and prosperous metropolis of Antwerp. The era between 1550s and 1560s, the Flanders faced an increasingly harsh Spanish domination that created the suppression of liberal Catholic or Protestant service and thought. The sympathizers of the pathetic outcome were Bruegel’s associates. The king “illustrated in the Vienna painting is perceived by Mansbach to be a hidden reference to the Spanish King” (Philip II).
A profound study of the Bruegel’s Vienna version of The Tower of Babel reveals that there is a contradiction between the giant crumbling, listing and imposing Roman Coliseum like tower. Leave alone the bustling surrounding this city, but the industry where it is being built is astounding to behold. This Babel tower is listing due to the ill-fated decision to construct it on a swamp. It is still being constructed but visibly tearing apart, and it thus appears as if it is being carved out of the mountain. This is an ironical source of the building of the tower. It is an unstable mix of architectural forms and styles, including the common Roman, Romanesque, and Near Eastern.
Accompanying the feeling of impending doom for the tower, there is a paradoxical sense of human activity, cooperation, and ingenuity. The spirit with which it is being constructed it in contrast with the hubris and the motivation behind the cooperation of the tower. The contrasting nature is caused by the clash existing between the tower’s wild monumental ambition and the cooperative spirit of activity that is supporting it . The king’s imposing project does not appear like the best place that can promote this kind of spirit and motivation. This painting appears to be encouraging the kind of thought that is sympathetic towards the adaptive quality of the Antwerp work force. There is a very big contrast between the object of construction and the process by which it enables it to come into being. There is a slight differing when one looks at the monumentality of the tower of Babel and the small detail the process of construction. More so, still there is differing aspect and between the singularity of the King and the multiplicity of the labor force (Rovira 37).
The one who designed the Tower of Babel seems to defend it, by stating that it is a monument of idea and an attribute to its creators. The Tower of Babel is meant to glorify the old usage of monuments to honor individuals and social ideas. It represents a maze of glued-together architectural blocks that are unfinished, damaged, and incomplete. The already discussed commentary has revealed that the monument of Babel glorifies controversial regimes and figureheads. Those involved had the purpose, and soul that would have propelled them to bring this Babel to a completion. Looking at the architectural design of this Tower of Babel is incomplete without focusing on the monument itself; the designer projects portray this reality by leaving the structure raw, and without purpose.
The story of this tower has been interpreted as an example of pride punished; a painting made some designers is helpful in illustrating this. The frenetic activity of engineers, workers, and masons points to second moral of futility of much human endeavor.
Carmody, Timothy R. Reading the Bible: A Study Guide. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2004. Web.
Lendering, Jona. “Etemenanki (The tower of Babel).” n.d. Livius: Articles on Ancient History. Web. 09 March 2012.
Life Application Study Bible: Personal Size Edition. 2nd. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004. Print.
Lyons, William L. “Teaching the Documentary Hypothesis to Skeptical Students.” Roncace, Mark and Patrick Gray. Teaching the Bible: Practical Strategies for Classroom Instruction. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005. 133-134. Web.
Rovira, Jim. “Babel in Biblia: The Tower in Ancient Literature.” July 1998. Babel.Web. 09 March 2012.