Sanderus catalogue

Old antique print showing the depiction of a Dutch proverb: Big Fish Eat Little Fish, by Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder, published by Hieronimus Cock.

Item number:24860
Category:Prints > Master Prints
Rating:
* * * * *
Price: 39000 Euro ($43680 / £33930)
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*** First state of Bruegel's very rare and famous print Big Fish Eat Little Fish ***

GRANDIBUS EXIGVI SVNT PISCES PISCIBUS ESCA. / Siet sone dit hebbe ick zeer langhe gheweten, dat die groote vissen de cleijne eten. - Hieronymus Cock, 1557.


Old print showing the depiction of a Dutch proverb: Big Fish Eat Little Fish, by Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder, published by Hieronimus Cock.

Copper engraving
Size (not including margins): 23 x 30cm (8.9 x 11.6 inches)
Verso: Blank
Condition: Excellent, with wide margins.
Condition Rating: A+

Engraver: Pieter van der Heyden
State 1 (of 4)

At bottom left: Hieronijmus Bos. | inventor.
At bottom left corner: PAME [monogram]
At bottom right: COCK.EXCV. 1557
In lower margin: GRANDIBUS EXIGVI SVNT PISCES PISCIBUS ESCA. / Siet sone dit hebbe ick zeer langhe gheweten, dat die groote vissen de cleijne eten.

Translation: Little fish are the food of big fish. / Look son, I have long known that the big fish eat the small.

The engraving is made after a drawing which is now in the Graphische Sammlung Albertina in Vienna (inv. 7875).

Bruegel's representation of this common proverb has generally been interpreted as an allusion to greed, sometimes with wild speculation about a perceived political or religious subtext.
Although the sheet is signed and dated, Bosch's name, instead of Bruegel's, appears on the print. This is generally believed to have been Cock's idea, as Bruegel had not yet gained a reputation in this genre, whereas in the mid-sixteenth century Bosch was enjoying a spectacular revival.

References: TNH (Bruegel), 31; Van Bastelaer, 140; Lebeer, 16; Sellink, 43; Klein, 29.

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