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For other uses, see Masterpiece (disambiguation).
In painting, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503–1506, is the archetypal masterpiece.

Masterpiece (or chef d'œuvre) in modern use refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill, or workmanship.


Originally, the term masterpiece referred to a piece of work produced by an apprentice or journeyman aspiring to become a master craftsman in the old European guild system. His fitness to qualify for guild membership was judged partially by the masterpiece, and if he was successful, it was retained by the guild. Great care was therefore taken to produce a fine piece in whatever the craft was, whether confectionery, painting, goldsmithing, knifemaking, or many other trades. The practice has continued in some modern academies of art, where the general term for such works is now reception piece. The Royal Academy in London is one institution that has acquired a fine collection of "diploma works" as a condition of acceptance.

The term probably derives from the Dutch "meesterstuk" or German "meisterstück", and the form "masterstik" is recorded in English in 1579 (or in Scots, since this was from some Aberdeen guild regulations), whereas "masterpiece" is first found in 1605, already outside a guild context, in a Ben Jonson play.[1] "Masterprize" was another early variant in English.[2]

In English the term rapidly became used in a variety of contexts for an exceptionally good piece of creative work, and was "in early use, often applied to man as the 'masterpiece' of God or Nature".[3]

Modern use[edit]

In modern English the word conventionally refers to the best piece of work of a particular creative artist or craftsman[4] but it has come to be used to refer to any work seen to be of high quality, including non-creative works,[5] luxury or rare goods of all kinds,[6] and even mass-produced goods. The word has been adopted as the brand name for a range of watches by Rolex, toys by Transformers, cosmetics by Max factor and stuffed animals by Steiff.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OED:"Masterpiece". See also: Encarta. Archived 2009-11-01.
  2. ^ OED:"Masterprize"
  3. ^ OED, and examples
  4. ^ "Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. 
  5. ^ Historical Thesaurus is a masterpiece worth waiting 40 years for Henry Hitchings, The Telegraph, 23 October 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  6. ^ Champagne and celebrities hit Masterpiece London luxury fair David Brough, Reuters, 27 June 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2014.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masterpiece — Please support Wikipedia.
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Thu, 21 Aug 2014 06:52:30 -0700

Doctors and nurses have been engaged in soapy doings since broadcasting's infancy, but seldom in a package quite as tantalizing as “Breathless.” Set in the early '60s, this three-part “Masterpiece” production obviously shares certain qualities with ...
The Seattle Times (blog)
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 05:11:15 -0700

Welcome to Make a Newsprint Masterpiece, the 2014 Seattle Times DIY contest. For this one, all we ask is that you create something out of newsprint — yes, that paper that makes your hands black. It can be something to wear, or something nice to look at.
WFMZ Allentown
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:38:30 -0700

There are gardens and then there is Andrew Hartnagle's garden, a masterwork in Doylestown, Bucks County. The view, however, may not last much longer for Hartnagle. "Taking different colors and textures and combining them so they play off each other ...
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0700

Just when you thought summer television was nothing but reruns, PBS has thrown us a fabulous option to fill the void. Premiering Sunday, August 24th, Masterpiece: Breathless provides another beautiful, binge-worthy series from the people who seem to ...

Paste Magazine

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Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:52:30 -0700

Here, he applies that same principle, and so much more, to a boy growing up, and the result is what could be Linklater's masterpiece. Though it has a definite (if open) ending point, “Boyhood” doesn't really have a plot. I can't summarize for you what ...

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Tue, 12 Aug 2014 03:16:45 -0700

Numerous Golden Globes, Emmys, and critical gush-fests later, Eaton says that Downton, along with its Masterpiece Mystery! sibling Sherlock--the 21st century-ized detective series starring Benedict Cumberbatch--both benefited from Masterpiece's updated ...
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Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:45:00 -0700

Kate Nemamic works on a quilt that will be in the Dolores quilt show this weekend. The hum of sewing machines filled the banquet room behind the Ponderosa Restaurant Tuesday morning as a small group of women concentrated on making masterpieces.
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:11:40 -0700

Save Settings; Reset. MASTERPIECE. Breathless: A Scene from Episode 1. +ADD. Aired: 08/24/2014; 01:23; Expires: Rating: NR. Breathless, starring Jack Davenport, premieres Sunday, August 24, 2014, 9pm ET on MASTERPIECE on PBS. iTunes; buy dvd.

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