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Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Bruegel's “The Tower of Babel” and Great 16th Century Masters – Astonishing world depicted by the imaginative painters

Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

One of the fascinating characteristics of the Netherlandish painting is the artists’ meticulous brushworks that thoroughly depict every small detail. The prominent work that stands out among them is “The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It depicts about 1,400 people, some are hanging around the tower, some working to build it, which is far from completion. If you observe carefully you will see thin and long scaffoldings at the construction site as well as each single brick. This masterpiece showing the construction of the tower to reach the heaven will be shown in Japan for the first time in 24 years.

There are only 40 or so paintings in this world that Bruegel himself painted. The exhibition was made possible to celebrate the opening of the new wing at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in the Netherlands where collects Bruegel’s paintings.

In addition to Bruegel’s works, two oil paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, whose works are also rare for there are only 25 of his works are remaining in the world, will also be shown at the exhibition. He is known as one of the most eccentric artist of Europe, who realistically painted the imaginary landscapes and beings such as fish with legs. Bosch’s works were widely celebrated by the people at the time and made many followers. One of Bruegel’s copperplate engravings shown at the exhibition is said to be the one influenced by Bosch’s style: the work shows fishermen opening the body of gigantic fish, from which innumerable small fish are spilling out, some of those fish also has smaller fish in their mouth.

The story of the Tower of Babel was to caution human’s tendency to become arrogant. Bosch’s paintings also show arrogant human beings in various ways. It is a rare opportunity to encounter masterworks of the Flemish painters up close, who painted the monsters that may reside deep beneath us all with such astonishing imagination.

(Text: Naoko Aono)

Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Bruegel’s “The Tower of Babel” and Great 16th Century Masters
Dates: April 18th (Tue) – July 2nd(Sun)
Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum (Exhibition Rooms, Special Exhibition Wing) 8-36 Ueno-Koen, Taito, Tokyo
Hours: 9:30 – 17:30 (-20:00 on Fridays) Closed on Mondays (Open on May 1st)
Admission: 1,600 yen
Inquiry tel. 03-5777-8600 (Hello Dial)

Pieter Bruegel (I) “The Tower of Babel”
Museum BVB, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Jheronimus Bosch “St Christopher Carrying the Christ Child”
Museum BVB, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (Koenigs Collection)

Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen


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