BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussel)

Big Fishes Eat Little Fishes

c. 1556
Engraving, 229 x 298 mm
British Museum, London

On his return to Flanders from his journey abroad, Bruegel began to work for the Antwerp engraver and print-seller Hieronymus Cock. In addition to use Bruegel's landscape drawings for engravings, Cock soon employed Bruegel on figure compositions as well. Of these, the series of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Big Fishes Eat Little Fishes are typical early examples.

Like most of Bruegel's work, the Big Fishes Eat Little Fishes combines entertainment with serious moral instructions. The style is consciously reminiscent of the art of Hieronymus Bosch. Cock had already been very successful with prints of Bosch's designs, and it is interesting to note that while the composition is definitely by Bruegel, the engraving was first issued under Bosch's name.