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During the seventeenth century, Dutch artists were unparalleled in their dedication to depicting ordinary people doing everyday things. Genre painting was the pre-eminent expression of this dedication, offering candid glimpses into the peasant cottages and village courtyards of the Dutch Golden Age, each painting lit with the period’s vibrant color palette and rich with radiant natural light.

This superb collection focuses on a selection of works of Dutch genre painting from the Royal Collection’s holdings. Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Gerrit Dou, Gabriel Metsu, and Pieter de Hooch are among the masters whose works are finely reproduced here. While the subject matter may be ordinary—the preparation of food, the bustle of a busy market, the enjoyment of taverns and town festivities—the meticulously documented details often allude to a work’s deeper meaning, that would have been familiar to the contemporary viewer.

The book explores these hidden moral messages, as well as the artist’s penchant for clever visual puns.

Desmond Shawe-Taylor is Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures, Royal Collection Trust. His previous publications include Dutch Landscapes (2010) and most recently The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714–1760 (2014).

Quentin Buvelot is Senior Curator at the Mauritshuis. His recent publications include Dutch Portraits: The Age of Rembrandt and Frans Hals (2007) and Jacob van Ruisdael Paints Bentheim (2009).