Project Gutenberg · 58, free ebooks · by Honoré de Balzac. The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac. No cover available. The Unknown Masterpiece. [Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu]. Honoré de Balzac. Translated by Ellen Marriage. First published in This web edition published by. THE UNKNOWN MASTERPIECE (Gillette)by Honoré de Balzac, Given the sprawling abundance of La Comédie humaine, one does not immediately think.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. One of Honore de Balzac’s most celebrated tales, “The Unknown Masterpiece” is the story of a painter who, depending on one’s perspective, is either an abject failure or masetrpiece transcendental genius–or both.

The story, which has served as an inspiration to artists as various as Cezanne, Henry James, Picasso, and New Wave director Jacques Rivette, is, in critic Dore Ashton’s wor One of Honore de Balzac’s most celebrated tales, “The Unknown Masterpiece” is the story of a painter who, depending on one’s perspective, is unnkown an abject failure or a transcendental genius–or both. The story, which has served as an inspiration to artists as various as Cezanne, Henry James, Picasso, and New Wave director Jacques Rivette, is, in critic Dore Ashton’s words, a “fable of modern art.

In more than ninety novels, he set forth French society and life as he saw it.

The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac

He created a cast of over two thousand individual and identifiable characters, some of whom reappear in different novels. Richard Howard was born in Cleveland unkhown He is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred fifty translations from the French, including works by Gide, Stendhal, de Beauvoir, Baudelaire, and de Gaulle.

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Jan 26, Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing Shelves: For the purposes of my review I will focus the author’s tour de force, The Unknown Masterpiece. The story revolves around three painters – Porbus, Poussin and Frenhofer.

Firstly, there is the matter of art as a form of magic.

The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac « La Comedie Humaine by Balzac

This is why images have been forbidden in so masteripece of the great religions of the world, and why they have been destroyed in the name of iconoclasm. It is why Plato was afraid of art, and drove artists from his Republic. Yet to really vitalize a painting, an added ingredient is needed. What shall we call it? If any image can come to life, even those first images created in the dawn of humanity as Danto notes, how powerful and magical is a painting infused by highly polished technique coupled with the spark of genius?

Now institutions hojore champions of the status quo who fear the power of the image really have something to worry about. Frans Pourbus the Younger – Portrait of Isabella Clara Eugeniaaround Nicolas Poussin – detail from Eliezer and Rebecca at the Welll For the artists in the tale, as for nearly all artists, is it any accident hot-blooded passionate love for another person is so much a part of their lives and has such an influence on their art?


I would give all I possess if just once, for a single moment, I could gaze upon that complete, that divine nature; if I could meet that ideal heavenly beauty, I would search for her in bazlac itself! The beautiful Gillette, the loving mistress of Poussin.

Shifting our focus to a slightly different topic, does the sense of place participate in this creative and artistic magic? Such a magnet for artists.

masterpidce Lastly, at the very end of the story, along with Porbus and Poussin we encounter the masterpiece Frenhofer has spent the last ten years of his life painting. And what does it mean to know a masterpiece?

Or maybe a better question would be: Could we ever completely know such art? Does a measure of power derive from its mystery? Echoes of Frenhofer and Balzac? View all 46 comments. From the fhe start Balzac sets its date and location. We are inin the early Regency of Maria de Medici, since only a couple of years had elapsed from the assassination of her husband and King Henri IV. And the location is, as we can expect, Paris. But not just any place in Paris. The significance of this street is that this is balzsc the young Louis XIII was almost honnore enthroned when his father died.

And the significance of having chosen this earlier period is that Balzac wrote bazlac work soon after the Bourbon Monarchy had fallen. It is as if in choosing this past framework Balzac wanted to go back to a period of France that for him should have not ended. There are two main characters who are real and famous. As Balzac tells us, the latter had lost his place as court painter to his compatriot Rubens. May be we are not surprised. This is how Pourbus saw the Queen.

And this is how Rubens envisioned her husband welcoming her portrait. But if the context is seventeenth century Paris, Balzac develops a discourse on art bzlzac reads very much like a nineteenth century criticism of the Art Salons. Colore And Disegno But even if Balzac also wrote regularly about the contemporary Salons, this is not just the writing of any art critic. A true delight to read. And yet, the novella is not even about these two poles in painting.

It is not about these people, nor their times. It is about something else. It is about the relationship of the painter and his representation, or to be more specific, about him and his female tue.

Creation and possession, and the limitations and impossibilities in these. In his thirteen engravings we see Picasso exploring the role of artistic creation, its limitations and the ultimate goal of appropriation or possession. For Picasso, his art and the implied window, balaac representational concept inherited from the Renaissance and through which he saw his world, was always framed by the female. We cannot be surprised then if he was fascinated by this Le chef-d’oeuvre inconnuwhere Balzac says: Illustrating the tale by Balzac was not enough.

Honoore be able to photograph this warrants a new pilgrimage to my most beloved city. View all 40 comments. Written by the master storyteller Balzac balxac the first half of the 19th century, recapturing a century of wild debates on the question: And what is the role of the artist? Or is a piece masterpoece art something entirely different? All of a sudden, the subjective ideas of the painter or sculptor gain dominance over the presumably objective rules of specific schools.


Who decides if a work is a masterpiece or an act of self-destruction? With the shifting of focus in the 19th century from a social, political function of art in the public sphere to a way of expressing either inner or outer life as interpreted through the artist-creator, something is set in motion that leads to the decomposition of traditional means of artistic expression at the beginning of the 20th century.

Balzac shows the first new, insecure, worried questions, arising at the moment in time when Rubenistes and Poussinistes seem to have made uonore the points they were capable of, over and and over again. In the end, only a trace mastdrpiece perfection was still visible in a beautifully rendered foot in the middle of chaotic lines and colours.

And a pleasurable joyride to a time of change, when art was about to be redefined, and into the minds of creative people, and their driving forces! Must-read for lovers masterpiwce art and literature! View all 15 comments. Not that that changes anything.

I can only guess Honoge used the names of two real artists to give his tale and the fictional Frenhofer even more authenticity than his words already seem to do. Byatt’s Portraits in Fiction has a breakdown and interpretation of this story that says it all except that I found Frenhofer’s ‘lectures’ a bit boring, like, well, lectures.

View all 5 comments. Feb 06, J. Keely rated it really liked it Shelves: I must say that I greatly enjoyed Balzac’s exploration of the idea that in art, it is not enough to simply copy reality. There is a reason that ‘art’ shares its root with ‘artificial’.

When we take the form of life and reproduce it on the page, or in sculpture, it becomes reduced and limited by the medium, losing its vitality and becoming corpselike. When we reduce honofe breathing, three-dimensional figure to the unmoving, flat plane of the canvas, depth is inevitably lost. So, as artists, we must r I must say that I greatly enjoyed Balzac’s exploration of the idea that in art, it is not enough to simply copy reality. So, as artists, we must replace that true vitality with some other energy, with creative energy, producing forms that are stylized, idealized, more beautiful, more grotesque, and more meaningful than can exist in nature.

Mimicry of life without purpose and direction is the least form of art, if indeed it can be called art at all–the only style which the that author lends to his work is only the result of unmnown flaws as a craftsman.

A haunting story that I didn’t quite understand but loved anyway. Which is more honoe, love or art? It seemed to be about the power of the act of art as even greater than the product. Is tye old man’s work a masterpiece or a disaster? Has he lost his mind in mastepriece pursuit of a beauty more real than reality, more perfect than is humanly possible to portray?

This is certainly a story I will read again.

Non sei un vigliacco che copia, sei un poeta. Coincidenza vuole che il giovane Poussin abbia una fidanzata bellissima….