This is one of a set of four pictures which take as their theme the four elements of 'Earth', 'Water', 'Air' and 'Fire'. In the art of the Low Countries in the later 16th and 17th centuries it became common to symbolise the elements by references to the natural world. Here, seductive representations of market produce for sale or for cooking are combined with relevant Biblical episodes. Beuckelaer's series of paintings are among the earliest and most accomplished fusions of these themes. These four pictures were produced in Antwerp, probably for a patron in Italy.
Twelve different varieties of fish have been identified among those offered for sale in this painting. The direct gaze of the stall holders is particularly striking, as is Beuckelaer's use of steep perspective framing the street vista to the left. Framed by the central arch is the scene of Christ appearning to the disciples for the third time after his Resurrection to perform the miracle by which fish appear in hitherto empty nets.
From The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Twenty Nine, March 2009