Honoré De Balzac (1799-1850) is generally credited as the inventor of the modern realistic novel. In more than ninety novels, he set forth French society and life as he saw it. He created a cast of over two thousand individual and identifiable characters, some of whom reappear in different novels. He organized his works into his masterpiece, La Comedie Humaine,which was the final result of his attempt to grasp the whole of society and experience into one varied but unified work. Richard Howard was born in Cleveland in 1929. He is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred fifty translations from the French, including works by Gide, Stendhal, de Beauvoir, Baudelaire, and de Gaulle. Howard received a National Book Award for his translation of Fleurs du mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, a collection of poetry.
The Unknown MasterpieceLe Chef-d'oeuvre inconnuHonor� de BalzacTranslated by Ellen MarriageLe Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu (English "The Unknown Masterpiece") is a short story by Honor� de Balzac. It was first published in the newspaper L'Artiste with the title "Ma�tre Frenhofer" (English: "Master Frenhofer") in August 1831. It appeared again later in the same year under the title "Catherine Lescault, conte fantastique." It was published in Balzac's �tudes philosophiques in 1837 and was integrated into the Com�die humaine in 1846."Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu" is a reflection on art, and has had an important influence on modernist artists.Young Nicolas Poussin, as yet unknown, visits the painter Porbus in his workshop. He is accompanied by the old master Frenhofer who comments expertly on the large tableau that Porbus has just finished. The painting is of Mary of Egypt, and while Frenhofer sings her praises, he hints that the work seems unfinished. With some slight touches of the paintbrush, Frenhofer transforms Porbus' painting such that Mary the Egyptian appears to come alive before their very eyes. Although Frenhofer has mastered his technique, he admits that he has been unable to find a suitable model for his own masterpiece, which depicts a beautiful courtesan called Catherine Lescault, known as La Belle noiseuse. He has been working on this future masterpiece, that no one has yet seen, for ten years. Poussin offers his own lover, Gillette, as a model. Gillette is so beautiful that Frenhofer is inspired to finish his project quickly. Poussin and Porbus come to admire the painting, but all they can see is part of a foot that has been lost in a swirl of colors. Their disappointment drives Frenhofer to madness, and he destroys the painting and dies that night.
Fiction. Short Story. Translated from the French by Anthony Rudolph. GILLETTE OR THE UNKNOWN MASTERIECE is one of Balzac's most brilliant and fascinating works, and one of the great short stories in European literature. It has been widely influential among painters and writers since its early editions, and speaks to our own days in unexpected ways. Anthony Rudolf has made the first complete translation into English in over eighty years. In a long accompanying essay he discusses the text as a love story, as a parable of writing told in terms of painting, and as a remarkable foreshadowing of certain later developments in art, such as the work of Giacometti. He also discusses the sexual, mythological, financial and other aspects of this extraordinary multi-layered text, and vigorously contests the widespread view that Frenhofer is nothing but a failure and his painting nothing but a disaster. This reprint marks Balzac's bicentenary and Menard's 30th birthday.
This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.