The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac



About the author

Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), one of the greatest and most influential of novelists, was born in Tours and educated at the Collège de Vendôme and the Sorbonne. He began his career as a pseudonymous writer of sensational potboilers before achieving success with a historical novel, The Chouans. Balzac then conceived his great work, La Comédie humaine, an ongoing series of novels in which he set out to offer a complete picture of contemporary society and manners. Always working under an extraordinary burden of debt, Balzac wrote some eighty-five novels in the course of his last twenty years, including such masterpieces as Père Goriot, Eugénie Grandet, Lost Illusions, and Cousin Bette. In 1850, he married Eveline Hanska, a rich Polish woman with whom he had long conducted an intimate correspondence. Three months later he died.(

Summary: Nicolas Poussin, a young aspiring novice artist, went to visit a rather well-known artist, Porbus. Whilst there, Porbus’ master arrives and young Poussin witnesses the master, Frenhofer’s lively discourse about art and art-making. There was much ado about the life and soul of a work of art as the master lectures. The two younger artists soon find out that Frenhofer has been for 10 years in the process of creating a work of art that he does not want to expose until perfected. In his desire to see the artwork, Poussin offered his mistress, Gillete, to Frenhofer as a model in order to complete the work and behold it. Gillete reluctantly consents. When the work of art is done, Poussin and Porbus came to see it – but they did not see the “beauty” that Frenhofer talked about. They only see colors upon colors. Porbus finds out the next day that Frenhofer has died after burning all of his artworks.

The Unknown Masterpiece, by Honoré de Balzac


Catherine Lescault: