The Tower of Babel
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | Art
Tower of Babel, Woodcut, 1928
All of Escher's studied interest in unconventional standpoints comes to play in this piece. This bird's eye view of the tower presented him with unusual challenges in following the rules of classical perspective. The great confusion of "tongues" of this Bible story is played out on the different terraces.
Escher wrote this about his early masterpiece of perspective:
On the assumption that the period of language confusion coincided with the emergence of different races, some of the building workers are white and others black. The work is at a standstill because they are no longer able to understand each other. Seeing that the climax of the drama takes place at the summit of the tower which is under construction, the building has been shown from above, as though from a bird's eye view. This called for a sharply receding perspective. It was not until twenty years later that this problem was thoroughly thought out.
- Now the whole earth had one language and few words.
- And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
- And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
- Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."
- And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built.
- And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
- Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."
- So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
- Therefore its name was called Ba'bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.