What Is a Masterpiece?- All the Facts You Must Know

Ashley | 19 - 01 - 2021
What Is a Masterpiece?- All the Facts You Must Know

If you are in the art field, you must agree that masterpiece is one of the most overused words in the art world but what does masterpiece mean and what makes a masterpiece? In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about a ‘masterpiece.’

What Is a Masterpiece?

Masterpiece definition: A masterpiece, magnum opus(Latin, great work) is described as a piece of work in any area of arts that has been considered the greatest in a person’s career and is given much critical praise. Their work is credited for the person’s outstanding creativity, skill, profundity, or workmanship.

Historically, a masterpiece was produced to obtain the membership of a guild or academy.

What Does the Royal Academy of London Call a Masterpiece?
  • A. Diplomo Work
  • B. Master Work
  • C. Reception Work
  • D. None

History

Masterpiece meaning: Originally, the term masterpiece refers to a piece of work that is produced by an apprentice or journeyman who aspires to become craftsman in the old European guild system. A person’s masterpiece was judged partly in order to qualify for guild membership.

For creating a fine piece of work, great care was taken in whatever the craft was, including painting, goldsmith, leather working, or any other forms of art.

In the 17th century, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, London, needed an apprentice to produce a masterpiece at a “workhouse” in Goldsmiths’ Hall and it was conducted under their supervision. The major reason for the set up of this workhouse is to tighten the standards as the company was concerned that the level of skill of goldsmithing was being diluted. In 1607, the wardens of the company raised a complaint that the “true practise of the Art & Mystery of Goldsmithery is not only grown into great decays but also dispersed into many parts, so as now very few workmen are able to finish & perfect a piece of plate singularly with all the garnishings & parts thereof without the help of many & several hands…” The company is still in need of a masterpiece but it is not produced under supervision anymore.

In the period between 1531 and 1572, in Nuremberg, Germany those who wished to master goldsmith must produce columbine cups and gold ring sets with precious stones before they are admitted to the goldsmith’s guild. If they fail to do so, they can only work for goldsmiths and not as a master. In some cases, apprentices were not supposed to marry until they got full membership.

This trend still continues but in modern art academies, the general term used was reception piece. ‘Diplomo work’ is the term used by the Royal Academy of London.

What makes a painting a masterpiece? When we look at a masterpiece, it must tell about the artist’s skill. While creating a masterpiece, an artist might change their personal experience into a universal one.

There are several criteria involved while selecting a masterpiece including style, technique, balance, and harmony. A masterpiece must evoke some feelings such as curiosity, disgust, or awe. It must influence the generations of artists by its power and change the perspective of the medium.

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