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Bruegel’s Biblical Kings

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Chapter Summary

This chapter makes a broader claim for a consistent spiritual outlook by the artist, one which can be considered collectively as a kind of pictorial exegesis. In short, Pieter Bruegel clearly contrasts Old Testament kingship with the advent of a new age of peace under Christ in the Gospels. Bruegel's fullest representation of armies shows a battlefield conflict in another, smaller panel, The Suicide of Saul. Bruegel's other major Old Testament painting, his 1563 Tower of Babel (Vienna), again presents the Old Testament gathering of might and power under the despotic leadership of a king. This painting emphasizes the town and port in the lower right corner, opposite the figure of Nimrod, thus evoking connotations of the same passage in Revelation (18:19), where merchants and shipmasters bewail the fall of Babylon and the vengeance of God against her sin and wealth.

Keywords: Babylon; Nimrod; Old Testament kingship; Pieter Bruegel; The Suicide of Saul; Tower of Babel

10.1163/9789004262010_027
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