Claude Weisbuch

Le Chef D'Oeuvre Inconnu (V/CXXX), 1978
Original color lithograph
17 x 23.25 in
SKU: 6388g
PurchaseMake an OfferInquire

'Le Chef D'Oeuvre Inconnu,' or in English 'The Unknown Masterpiece,' is an original signed lithograph by the contemporary artist Claude Weisbuch – and it is an excellent example of the artist's interest in the old masters. The print takes its title from the 1831 short story by the same name. 

In the story, the young artist Nicolas Poussin, as yet unknown, visits the painter Franz Porbus in his workshop. He is accompanied by the fictitious artist 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.

Weisbuch's lithograph depicts the moment when Frenhofer takes up the brush and finishes the painting of Mary of Egypt. Because of Weisbuch's style, her nude figure at once seems to be on the canvas, but then appears to stand in the same space as the artist. Weisbuch is known for this play between figure and ground, using wayfinding lines to capture movement, to create ambiguity, and in this case to depict true creative genius.

17 x 23.25 inches, artwork
25.5 x 29 inches, frame
Edition V/CXXX in pencil, lower left
Signed in pencil, lower right
Framed to conservation standards using archival materials including 100 percent rag matting, Museum Glass to inhibit fading and reduce glare, and housed in a gold finish wood moulding.