1647 van Sichem Aesop Fable - Woodcut hand coloured - THE DOGS - Emblematica
Christoffel van Sichem II (ca. 1577-1658)
Beautiful hand coloured woodcut by Christoffel van Sichem II (ca. 1577-1658) issued for the Greek / Latin edition of Dutch neo-Latin poet, humanist and Leiden Professor of Greek, Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655).
Hand colouring later.
15.1 x 9 cm
A dog that is carrying a stolen piece of meat looks down as it is walking beside or crossing a stream and sees its own reflection in the water. Taking that for another dog carrying something better, it opens its mouth to attack the "other" and in doing so drops what it was carrying. An indication of how old and well-known this story was is given by an allusion to it in the work of the philosopher Democritus from the 5th century BCE. Discussing the foolish human desire for more, rather than being content with what one has, he describes it as being "like the dog in Aesop's fable".
Many Latin versions of the fable also existed and eventually the story became incorporated into mediaeval animal lore. The Aberdeen Bestiary, written and illuminated in England around 1200 (see above), asserts that "If a dog swims across a river carrying a piece of meat or anything of that sort in its mouth, and sees its shadow, it opens its mouth and in hastening to seize the other piece of meat, it loses the one it was carrying".