The Dutch master of graphics and drawing, Peter Bruegel the Elder, known under the nickname “Muzhitsky,” produced one of his first sheets, “Big Fishes Eat Small”, in 1557 according to the drawings and signed with the name of Bosch, who had already passed away by then.
Bosch's work surprised and impressed Brueghel, and fake authorship was attributed in order to please wealthy customers. Engraving is interesting for its semantic meaning and conveys the idea that everyone is a predator and a victim at the same time.
Bruegel in his works says that nowhere and no one knows what is happening in reality, and what will happen in the next second. The painter lived in a brutal era of Spanish enslavement and the Inquisition, but he knew how to laugh and make people laugh. Nothing could hide from Brueghel's sarcastic eye.
The grotesque manifested itself both in genre painting and in gospel stories. Not experiencing interest in a particular person, he did not experience illusions about humanity: miserable, weak and lazy. The meaning of Brueghel's works reached his contemporaries quickly, because illustrations were taken from proverbs.
The engraving is strikingly modern and illustrates the Dutch proverb. In the picture, a huge fish is shown with a spread belly and an open mouth, from where other small fish fall out. Those, in turn, keep smaller fish, and medium-sized fish with an open mouth flies above the water, hoping to grab prey.
On the hill, you can see a creature similar to a man with a fish body, which drags its own prey in the mouth. So, Brueghel depicts a world of people where the strong devours the weak, but he can also be in the role of the victim of a larger creature.
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