Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, ca. 1525–1569)
8 7/16 x 11 3/8 in. (21.4 x 28.8 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1925 (25.2.11)
On the hillside of an expansive river valley, a hunter accompanied by his alert dog aims his crossbow at two rabbits below. Another man, carrying a spear, circles around the tree behind him. The image may relate to an old proverb that warns: "He who pursues two rabbits at once, will lose both." But the actions and purpose of the man with a spear are less clear and even ominous, demonstrating the kind of ambiguity common to Bruegel's work. Based on the artist's own drawing, The Rabbit Hunt was the only print executed by Bruegel himself. With the free and subtle graphic vocabulary of etching, a technique that involves drawing with a pointed tool through a ground on the printing plate, Bruegel was able to give the landscape a vivid sense of light and atmosphere. The image thus avoids the kind of rigid tones and strong outlines characteristic of most prints executed by other artists after Bruegel's designs, and anticipates the brilliant seasonal effects achieved by the master in his late painted landscapes.