The Rabbit Hunt (1560)

Bruegel the Elder, Pieter (c.1525-1569)

The Rabbit Hunt
Etching, 22.1 x 29 cm
Cleveland Museum of ArtCleveland

In this etching considered the artist’s only autograph print, Pieter Bruegel the Elder replicated the graphic vocabulary of dots and dashes of his pen-and-ink drawings to evoke a vivid sense of atmosphere and light and create a deep recession into space. His representations of nature, including majestic mountains—an unusual and popular subject in the flat Netherlands—exemplify an unprecedented naturalism that the artist helped to usher in. What at first appears to be a pleasant landscape with a hunter aiming his crossbow at some rabbits in the grass becomes more ominous when we notice the spear-bearing soldier stalking not the rabbits, but the hunter. Bruegel often translated popular proverbs into pictorial form: in this case, “A hare yourself, you hunt for prey” is the most apt. In Bruegel‘s world, reversals such as this suggested that humans, vainly believing they control their fate, are instead subject to powers outside of their control. (CMA)