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The Multiplication of the Fishes, 1891

  • etching, paper
  • 174 x 232 mm
  • Inv. 1998-B-85

Public Domain

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The theme of Christ has a prominent place in Ensor's pictorial and graphic oeuvre. In the 1890s his work acquired a strikingly satirical content and the artist made increasing use of linear arabesques. Such mass scenes, populated by grotesque figures, repeatedly recur in paintings, drawings and prints. It is noteworthy that Ensor transposed the theme to his own time, depicting a fanfaresque procession of folk, carnival figures, gendarmes, etc. Behind the figure of Christ, stout, surly-looking citizens watch the popular entertainment. The inscriptions on the banners, "Fanfares doctrinaires. Toujours réussis" and "Alimentation doctrinaire", illustrate the bourgeois condescension. Apart from a few details, the print is based entirely on the chalk drawing of the same name from 1891 (Antwerp, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, inv. 2739).


James Ensor RKD VIAF Wikidata
Ostend 1860 - Ostend 1949

Title The Multiplication of the Fishes
Date 1891
Period 19th century
Medium and support etching AAT
Signatures, inscriptions, and markings signature and year bottom left: Ensor / 1891
inscription on the reverse: AT
inscription on the reverse: JA
Collection print room
Object type etching AAT
Inventory number 1998-B-85
Acquisition credit purchase
Taevernier, Auguste (coll.)
Current whereabouts Work currently not on display
IIIF Manifest
Art & Architecture Thesaurus 300055874 religious symbolism AAT
300056485 fantastic art AAT
Keywords Iconclass 11D Christ Iconclass
11D334 adult Christ together with apostles, evangelists, saints, etc. Iconclass
25F6 fishes Iconclass
25F9 mis-shapen animals; monsters Iconclass
31A71 male sex; man Iconclass
31A72 female sex; woman Iconclass
41C621 bread, loaf Iconclass
41D283 mask Iconclass
43A(+2) festivities (+ parade, pageant, cavalcade ~ festive activities) Iconclass
46A7 crowd, mob Iconclass
52A4 Imagination; 'Imaginatione' (Ripa) Iconclass
52A44 Fantasy, Caprice; 'Capriccio' (Ripa) Iconclass
73 New Testament Iconclass
73C612 multiplication of loaves and fishes for a multitude of four or five thousand people (Matthew 14:13-21, 15:32-39; Mark 6:32-44, 8:1-10; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14) Iconclass
School / Style phantasy
satire (artistic device) AAT
Henri Leys, Henri de Braekeleer, James Ensor / Loys Delteil. - Paris : Chez l'Auteur, 1925 (nr. 83)
James Ensor : Catalogue illustré de ses gravures ; Leur description critique et l'inventaire des plaques = Geïllustreerde catalogus van zijn gravures ; Hun kritische beschrijving en inventaris van de platen = Illustrated catalogue of his engravings ; Their critical description and inventary of the plates / Auguste Taevernier. - Ledeberg (Gent) : Erasmus Boekhandel bv Amsterdam, 1973 (nr. 85)
James Ensor : Schrecken ohne Ende (Ausstellung Wuppertal, Von der Heydt-Museum, 12. Oktober 2008 - 8. februar 2009) / Gerhard Finckh, Joachim Heusinger von Waldegg, Herwig Todts, Norbert Hostyn. - Wuppertal : Von der Heydt-Museum, 2008
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