AskDefine | Define masterpiece

Dictionary Definition



1 the most outstanding work of a creative artist or craftsman [syn: chef-d'oeuvre]
2 an outstanding achievement

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A piece of work that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career.
  2. A work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship.
  3. A work created in order to qualify as a master craftsman and member of a guild.



  • Dutch: meesterwerk
  • French: chef d'œuvre
  • German: Meisterstück
  • Icelandic: meistaraverk
  • Portuguese: obra prima

Extensive Definition

The term masterpiece (or chef d'œuvre) refers to any work of art that is considered extraordinary. The phrase is generally used to describe what is considered an artist's best piece of work. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes, Michelangelo's David, William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Previously the term referred to a piece of work produced by an apprentice aspiring to become a master craftsman in the old European guild system, on which his fitness to qualify was judged, and if he was successful, was retained by the guild. Great care was therefore taken to produce a fine piece in whatever the craft was, whether painting, goldsmithing, knifemaking, or many other trades. Under this system the masterpiece was produced at the start of the artist's independent career, and his most famous works were typically produced in later years. The Royal Academy in London is one institution that has acquired a fine collection of "Diploma works" in this way.
Also colloquially known as gesamtwerk from the German, meant to indicate a work that expresses the sum of a culture.
masterpiece in German: Meisterwerk
masterpiece in French: Chef-d'œuvre
masterpiece in Indonesian: Adi karya
masterpiece in Italian: Capolavoro
masterpiece in Dutch: Meesterwerk
masterpiece in Polish: Majstersztyk
masterpiece in Portuguese: Obra-prima
masterpiece in Russian: Шедевр

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

archetype, art object, artifact, brainchild, bric-a-brac, child, classic, coinage, composition, concoction, creation, creature, crowning achievement, design, distillation, effect, end product, essence, exemplar, extract, feat, fruit, grotesque, handiwork, ideal, invention, issue, jewel, kitsch, magnum opus, manufacture, master, master stroke, masterstroke, masterwork, mintage, mirror, mobile, museum piece, new mintage, nude, offspring, old master, opera, opus, opuscule, origination, outcome, outgrowth, paragon, pasticcio, pastiche, pattern of perfection, piece, piece de resistance, piece of virtu, product, production, prototype, quintessence, result, stabile, statue, still life, study, tour de force, very model, virtu, work, work of art
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1