What Makes a Masterpiece?

Encounters with Great Works of Art



ISBN: 9780500238790 Category:

Christopher Dell


Over the course of history there sometimes emerge works of art of such quality that they transcend boundaries of period and place. In this exploration of the idea of the masterpiece, distinguished artists, critics and art historians write about their personal encounters with the greatest artworks of all time, representing cultures from all over the world, and stretching from prehistory and the birth of art to C├ęzanne at the cusp of Cubism.

What Makes a Masterpiece? begins with the forms of animals inscribed on the walls of Chauvet Cave in France, and travels through the worlds of the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans, embodied by images of royal or martial potency and mysterious religious rites. Medieval representations of Christ are celebrated alongside images of Vishnu, the Buddha and his priests, and the royal figures of South American and African civilizations. The jewels of the Quattrocento are on show beside the lesser-known triumphs of Aztec and Japanese court artists, while the masters of the European Renaissance and Baroque mingle with Mughal, Arab and Chinese virtuosos. The journey ends with the 19th century, depicted as an age of revolution, introspection and modernization.

This collection of famous works is more than the sum of its parts: it presents a remarkable cultural chronicle, showing how artists throughout history have seen their world and chosen to represent it. Here are seventy answers to the question, ‘What makes a masterpiece?’

Additional information

Weight 1572 g
Dimensions 21.1 x 26.8 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 7 October 2009
Number of pages 304
Format Hardback
Contributors Edited by Christopher Dell
Dimensions 21.1 x 26.8 cm
Weight 1572 g
Christopher Dell holds a degree in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute, London. He has written and edited many bestselling titles on art and visual culture, including Freemasonry, Mythology, Monsters, What Makes a Masterpiece? and The Occult, Witchcraft & Magic, all published by Thames & Hudson.