The people attempted to build a tower which would reach the heavens. But God humbled their pride by confusing their language so that no one could communicate, and the building ceased. Old Testament (Genesis 11: 1-9).
Some of the costumes are apparently intended to be oriental. That of the left horseman seems contemporary and suggests the dating of soon after 1600. The Bassano family of painters came to specialise in busy landscapes with narratives from the Old Testament, often sold in pairs or sets. The subject of this work, which shows the Tower of Babel under construction, was popular as a pair with a painting showing the construction of Noah's Ark.