(b. 1629, Leiden, d. 1667, Amsterdam)
The Poultry Seller1662
Oil on oak panel, 62 x 46 cm
Market and kitchen scenes originally came from Flemish painting and above all are linked in the sixteenth century with Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaer. In sharp contrast to Dutch still-life specialists, the Leiden Feinmalers around Gerard Dou reactivated these subjects for their small-format genre paintings, in which market goods were showed off to their best advantage in small, select groups. Metsu's Poultry Seller depicts just such a group of varied items, arranged along the painting's lower and left-hand margins; the precision with which they have been painted testifies to a supreme virtuosity in the Feinmaler style, and is accentuated in part by the use of light and dark contrasts. But importantly, each surface receives the same amount of attention: from different woods - a bamboo rod, basketwork, a barrel and a bare tree to the fluffy fur of the rabbit beside the pale flesh of the plucked hen in the basket, or from the bird's skeletal head, a strong contrast with the luminous red head of the turkey, to the trader's thick wool stockings that differ so from his young customer's delicate, filmy gauze apron. Metsu is not simply content, however, to use the Feinmalers' technique of applying flat, narrow brush strokes one beside the next. The tree and the row of houses in the background reveal his command of a far more relaxed and expansive style. Furthermore, his colours are richer than those of the Leiden Feinmaler, and reveal a love of clear reds, blues and greens demonstrated, for instance, in the young woman's clothes.