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For other uses, see Masterpiece (disambiguation). Masterpiece_sentence_0

"Magnum opus" redirects here. Masterpiece_sentence_1

For other uses, see Magnum opus (disambiguation). Masterpiece_sentence_2

Masterpiece, magnum opus (Latin, great work) or chef-d’œuvre (French, master of work, plural chefs-d’œuvre) in modern use is 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, profundity, or workmanship. Masterpiece_sentence_3

Historically, a "masterpiece" was a work of a very high standard produced to obtain membership of a guild or academy in various areas of the visual arts and crafts. Masterpiece_sentence_4

Etymology Masterpiece_section_0

The form masterstik is recorded in English or Scots in a set of Aberdeen guild regulations dated to 1579, whereas "masterpiece" is first found in 1605, already outside a guild context, in a Ben Jonson play. Masterpiece_sentence_5

"Masterprize" was another early variant in English. Masterpiece_sentence_6

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". Masterpiece_sentence_7

History Masterpiece_section_1

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. Masterpiece_sentence_8

His fitness to qualify for guild membership was judged partly by the masterpiece, and if he was successful, the piece was retained by the guild. Masterpiece_sentence_9

Great care was therefore taken to produce a fine piece in whatever the craft was, whether confectionery, painting, goldsmithing, knifemaking, leatherworking, or many other trades. Masterpiece_sentence_10

In London, in the 17th century, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, for instance, required an apprentice to produce a masterpiece under their supervision at a "workhouse" in Goldsmiths' Hall. Masterpiece_sentence_11

The workhouse had been set up as part of a tightening of standards after the company became concerned that the level of skill of goldsmithing was being diluted. Masterpiece_sentence_12

The wardens of the company had complained in 1607 that the "true practise of the Art & Mystery of Goldsmithry 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...". Masterpiece_sentence_13

The same goldsmithing organization still requires the production of a masterpiece but it is no longer produced under supervision. Masterpiece_sentence_14

In Nuremberg, Germany, between 1531 and 1572, apprentices who wished to become master goldsmith were required to produce columbine cups, dies for a steel seal, and gold rings set with precious stones before they could be admitted to the goldsmiths' guild. Masterpiece_sentence_15

If they failed to be admitted, then they could continue to work for other goldsmiths but not as a master themselves. Masterpiece_sentence_16

In some guilds, apprentices were not allowed to marry until they had obtained full membership. Masterpiece_sentence_17

In its original meaning the term was generally restricted to tangible objects, but in some cases, where guilds covered the creators of intangible products, the same system was used. Masterpiece_sentence_18

The best-known example today is Richard Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868), where much of the plot is concerned with the hero's composition and performance of a "masterpiece" song, to allow him to become a meistersinger in the (non-commercial) Nuremberg guild. Masterpiece_sentence_19

This follows the surviving rulebook of the guild. Masterpiece_sentence_20

The practice of producing a masterpiece has continued in some modern academies of art, where the general term for such works is now reception piece. Masterpiece_sentence_21

The Royal Academy in London uses the term "diploma work" and it has acquired a fine collection of diploma works received as a condition of membership. Masterpiece_sentence_22

In modern use Masterpiece_section_2

In modern use, a masterpiece is a creation in any area of the arts 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, profundity, or workmanship. Masterpiece_sentence_23

For example the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is generally considered a literary masterpiece. Masterpiece_sentence_24

The term is often used loosely, and some critics such as Edward Douglas of the Tracking Board feel it is overused in describing recent films. Masterpiece_sentence_25

See also Masterpiece_section_3

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