The composition derives from an engraving by Nicolas Cochin (1610-1686), for which see H. Minkowski, Aus dem Nebel der Vergangenheit steigt der Turm zu Babel, 1960, p. 79, no. 283, illustrated.
The subject, which is taken from Genesis XI:1-9, was popular in medieval illuminated manuscripts and there was a long-standing tradition of the subject in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century prints. Until the late fifteenth century, the Tower was traditionally depicted as a relatively low building, almost always square in construction. Among the first to depict round Towers, sometimes spiralled, were the Brueghels, Lucas van Valckenborch and Hendrick van Cleve. The present lot is close to the latter's depictions, with the Tower shown standing on a large base, the foreground crowded with numerous small figures and animals.