Question: What Makes a Masterpiece?

“A masterpiece isn’t a masterpiece until it is well known and has absorbed all the interpretations to which it has given rise, which in turn make it what it is.  An unknown masterpiece hasn’t had enough readers, or readings, or interpretations…A work of art isn’t created a masterpiece, it becomes one…the authority, the familiarity and the relevance of a great work of literature: we open it, and it speaks to us of ourselves…naturally every reading affects the book, in the same way as the events we experience effect us…”

Umberto Eco & Jean-Claude Carriere, This is Not the End of the Book

Your thoughts…?  Any “unknown” masterpieces possible?

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7 thoughts on “Question: What Makes a Masterpiece?

  1. It was interesting to look up the word, and see that it was originally the piece an apprentice made to be judged by his peers to become a master craftsman. So it seems like acclaim is required.

    I agree this word and genius are too freely used now. We often confuse clever and genius, and masterpiece and popular.

  2. I agree with myothervoices, it’s become a rather meaningless word. But I’m not sure I’d agree that it has to be well-known and well-received to be a masterpieces – I would think of it as being much more to do with quality of work and possibly the amount of effort and length of time put into it by the artist.

  3. and yet…how would we know (quality of work / effort of artist)…if we don’t know? i hope we are able to restore the meaning in time
    thanks for joining the conversation

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

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