The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, firstname.lastname@example.org, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This work has not been recently restored, but it looks well and could be hung in its current condition. The varnish may be recent. The canvas has a lining applied with glue, which is stabilizing the paint layer. The surface has a slightly uneven texture, but this is not unattractive.
The paint layer is still quite dirty, but it seems to be in very good condition overall. While the sky and distant landscape seem to show less old varnish, the tower and foreground would benefit from careful cleaning. There is clearly no abrasion to the work.
In the sky in the upper left, there is a horizontal line of restorations running 3 inches which may address a break in the canvas. There are a few isolated restorations to the left and right of the tower in the sky, but these are very broad and could be greatly reduced if the work were cleaned. There are a few restored losses in the group of figures in the lower right by the forge and along the bottom edge. There is a restored diagonal scratch in the landscape to the right of the center of the tower.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 28 January 2016, lot 24;
Where acquired by the present collector.
The subject of the Tower of Babel is from Genesis (11:1-9) and recounts how the people, who all spoke a common language, decided to build a tower, the top of which would reach to the heavens. As punishment for their hubris, God confused the people’s language so that they could no longer understand one another, and scattered them over the face of the earth. The story provided a rich source of subject matter for Flemish artists in the 16th and 17th centuries whose depictions were inspired by the two iconic representations by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum , dated 1563; and Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, circa 1565). The present example, filled with abundant detail, appears to be by a Flemish artist working in the second half of the 17th Century.