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Big Fish Eat Little Fish

A work made of etching and engraving in black on ivory laid paper, laid down on ivory laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of etching and engraving in black on ivory laid paper, laid down on ivory laid paper.

Date:

1557

Artist:

Pieter van der Heyden (Flemish, c. 1530–after 1584)
after Pieter Bruegel, the elder (Flemish, 1525/30–1569)
published by Hieronymus Cock (Flemish, c. 1510–1570)

About this artwork

This engraving hauntingly illustrates the proverb that the big fish always eats the little fish. Starting with the larger-than-life fish at its center, the image teems with grotesque activity, as bodies spill out of other bodies and hybrid creatures walk and fly about. Pieter Bruegel seems to take a dim view of humanity here, one of disgust at its seemingly endless capacity to cannibalize itself. This is epitomized in the hybrid fish-person at left carrying off its prize, another fish, in its gaping mouth. In the foreground, a man directs a child’s gaze toward the scene, telling him to “behold” (ecce) the proverbial truth on display.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Prints and Drawings

Artist

Pieter van der Heyden

Title

Big Fish Eat Little Fish

Place

Flanders (Artist's nationality)

Date

1557

Medium

Etching and engraving in black on ivory laid paper, laid down on ivory laid paper

Inscriptions

Inscribed verso, upper center, in graphite: “Les grands poissons mangent ces petits / - D’apres un dessin de P. Brueghel reprouisant un composition de H. Bosch (Bastelaer) / - D’apres H. Bosch (M. Gossart) / # etat”; lower right, in pen and black ink: “B. 14.”; lower right, in graphite: “-7-”

Dimensions

Image: 21.7 × 29.9 cm (8 9/16 × 11 13/16 in.); Plate: 23 × 30 cm (9 1/16 × 11 13/16 in.); Sheet: 22.9 × 30.1 cm (9 1/16 × 11 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

The Amanda S. Johnson and Marion J. Livingston Fund

Reference Number

2016.376

IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

Learn more.

https://api.artic.edu/api/v1/artworks/233437/manifest.json

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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