The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Height: 230.000 mm
Width: 300.000 mm
PD 1866-4-7-12 (Bastelaer 139)
Prints and Drawings
Pieter van der Heyden, Big Fish Eat Little Fish, an engraving after a drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Dated AD 1557
In the foreground, a child is instructed by its father, 'See [ECCE], the big fish eat the little fish'. He points to the whale-sized fish stranded on the shore, disgorging smaller fish which in turn have swallowed even smaller ones. On the right, a fisherman catches a fish with a little fish at the end of his fishing line. The text below the frame states 'the rich oppress you with their power'.
The inscription ‘Hieronijmus Bos inventor' on the lower left, may be misleading. Hieronymus Bosch (about 1450-1516) was famous for his composite creatures, like the fish with legs depicted here above his name, or the fish flying in the sky. However this composition is certainly by Bruegel, since the preparatory drawing survives with his signature and the date 1556, although it may depdend on a lost prototype by Bosch. Bruegel revived interest in Bosch's imagery, which was in keeping with his rejection of the Italian influence widespread among northern artists at this time, such as Sebald Beham.
D. Freedberg, The prints of Pieter Bruegel t, exh. cat. (Tokyo Shimbun, c1989)
H. Mielke, Pieter Bruegel, Die Zeichnunge (Brepols, Turnhout, 1998)