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Tower of Babel

Maurits Cornelis Escher • Print, 1928, 38.6×62.1 cm
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About the artwork
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Art form: Print
Subject and objects: Architecture, Religious scene
Style of art: Surrealism
Technique: Woodcut
Date of creation: 1928
Size: 38.6×62.1 cm
Artwork in selections: 16 selections
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Description of the artwork «Tower of Babel»

The famous legend from the Book of Genesis at all times excited the minds of artists. Before Escher, one of the most famous depictions of the Tower of Babel was a painting by the Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Escher, by the way, is often compared with Bruegel: in particular, due to the fact that both were graphic artists, both traveled around Europe along a very similar route and they even had similar features. It is not known whether Escher created his Tower of Babel (1928) under the influence of Bruegel, but in the end his engraving turned out to be in no way inferior to the paintings of the famous Dutchman in skill and monumentality.

According to the testimony of Escher's family and friends, he suffered from a kind of mental disorder since childhood. Maurits had an inexplicable passion for heights, experiencing almost religious ecstasy when looking up at a tall building or hill. With age, this peculiarity faded out, if not completely disappeared. But it remained forever in his engravings. Many of his works, starting from the Italian period (1, 2), depict landscapes or buildings seen and captured from a very high vantage point. The same applies to his Tower of Babel.

Escher captured the tower at the moment when the construction reached its highest point. The curved lines in the background create a sense of movement around the structure. The higher the viewer's gaze rises, the more details can be seen, even the expressions on the faces of the confused people.

Later, the artist said: “Some builders are white, others are black. The work stopped because they lost the ability to understand each other. The building is shown from above, as if from a bird's eye view, to open the panorama of the drama culmination at the top of the tower under construction. But here Escher seems to be cheating a little. Considering how high, according to the legend, the Tower of Babel had reached by that moment, it would be more logical to assume that the viewer saw it rather from the point of view of God himself.

Written by Evgheniya Sidelnikova

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