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Grandibus Exigui Sunt Pisces Piscibus esca

Major collection: Hart Nautical
Named collection: Allan Forbes Collection
Object type: engraving
Maker: Cock; Bosch, Hieronymus; Brueghel, Pieter, the Elder
Place made: Netherlands
Date made: 1557
Materials: ink; laid paper
Measurements: 9 in x 11 3/4 in
Nomenclature: natural history
Classification: whales

Engraving illustrating the proverb "Grandibus Exigui Sunt Pisces Piscibus esca", "Small fish are food for big fish". In the centre of the composition is a vast fish, taller than a human figure, beached and facing right. A man in a hat with an acorn-like point, and matching knee and elbow guards, makes a cut in the fish with a giant knife upon which the "globus cruciger", a cross mounted on a sphere that was a symbol of royal authority for many of the European monarchies, is carved. From the cut, and from the fish's mouth, tumble many smaller fish and mollusks; some of those fish also hold yet smaller fish in their mouths. In the foreground, two men and a child are seated in a boat with a flagon and an oar. One man, holding his knife between his teeth, pulls a small fish out of a cut-open larger fish; the child appears to be pointing at him. The other man, next to the child, points to the vast fish. Next to his hand is the word "ECCE" (Latin; translates to "Look"). In the water at left, an oyster is snapping its shell onto a man-sized fish which is itself swallowing the head of a small fish; a large fish eats a midsize fish which is eating a small fish; and on the beach a fisherman uses a minnow to catch a larger fish. In the background at right, a giant fish appears to be eating a man falling from a single-masted ship; behind them is a small island with another vast fish and a company of men with spears; there is some sort of ship suspended atop a very high rock on the island. Far in the distance is a coastal city and many ships (perhaps a harbor). On land, in the background at left, a fish with human legs walks away with another fish clamped in its mouth; two fish hang from a tree, and a man wearing a fish on his head climbs a ladder up its branches, while another man looks out at him from the doorway of a house. In the sky, a peculiar fish with fly-like wings and mouth agape flies downwards, and two goose-like creatures fly upwards. At bottom left, the name "Hieronymus Bos., inventor." and "PME" (monogram); at bottom right, "COCK EXCU. 1557". Title is printed in the lower margin; below it is printed, "Siet sone dit hebbe ick zeer langhe gheweten dat die groote vissen de cleyne eten" (English: See this, son, I have very long known that the big fish eat the small)


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