Because current fashions in art are just that, it is simple to digitally enhance reproductions of the works of popular artists to suit the living room table. Nonetheless, the fact remains that coffee table books of 17th Century Dutch art must leave one wondering why the picture in the book looked so much better than that of the artist himself. This is true of Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals. The works in this book however, like those in most books published by Yale University Press, are not for the table, they are for those interested in what they will see or have seen in the gallery. Most art of the Dutch was painted in the studio in less than ideal lighting conditions. My bet is life looked more as Rembrandt portrayed it than the ever present sunlight in Vermeer's attic. Even in the warmer, sunnier climes, paintings are dark, as Velasquez demonstrates. It was a dark world, and in the North particularly so. Paint was not easily made, varnish not of the highest chemical composition, paintings were abraded, trimmed to fit the decors, painted on panels or canvasses that were often held together with similarly poor materials, and impasto worn away. Restorers of earlier centuries had no clue what they were doing, and as often ruined works as repaired them. I find the reproductions in this work beautiful. One does not color a work painted in monochrome, a Dutch style of subtle beauty, for the viewer's preference. See cover of Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus as example of monochrome style, or any comprehensive Dutch art book.
The articles in the edition are interesting, but it does assume the reader is familiar with the history of painting throughout the United Republics, and Leiden, Holland, in particular, and of the often misleading iconography of Dutch painting, if taken for fact. For the casual reader, this may not be where one would want to start his studies. Metsu differs in many ways from the genre painter of Leiden or Delft; he is a Catholic in a Calvinist world, exposed to Caravaggism from his time in Utrecht, and influenced by "peasant scene" painters of Haarlem. He is a master of fine clothing, proper behavior, open markets, children, fine and loose brush work, still life and portraiture as well. He shares many of the techniques with the great painters before and during his own time such as Molenaer, ter Borsh, Steen, van Ostade, and Dou, and Vermeer too.
I do not lightly dismiss this edition as one of poor or average quality, nor do I advise this work more or less than another. If you love Dutch art, this is a book which you may regret not owning when it becomes difficult to obtain. But for a coffee table book, it's not bad either. For centuries Metsu has been regarded as a great master, and is overshadowed by only one, and he from Leiden as well. However, I have no argument that a $200+ book might be of higher quality.
Purchased by preorder from Amazon for a steal. Upcoming works can be viewed at Yale University Press for preorder at Amazon. (I have no connection to either Amazon or Yale).