Pablo Picasso & Honore de Balzac’s Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu – 13 Original Etchings on Vellum, 20 Reproduced Drawings, and 67 Woodcuts


Product No. picasso-balzac

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Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu or The Unknown Masterpiece

This beautiful work with illustrations by Pablo Picasso is Honore de Balzac’s Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu or The Unknown Masterpiece. The work was published in Paris by Ambroise Vollard in 1931. This was one of 65 copies with the suite of etchings printed on vellum of Rives. Only 340 of the work published of which this is numbered I.

The work features 20 reproduced illustrations of drawings by Pablo Picasso between 1924 and 1926, there are 67 woodcuts by Aubert after Picasso’s drawings, and 13 original etchings from Picasso at the request of Ambroise Vollard to illustrate this work. The work is signed by Picasso on the receipt / justification. Balzac wrote the story exploring the conception of art, the artist, and the relationships between painter and their models.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and co-founded the Cubist movement. He was a Spanish born painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, and playwright that worked predominantly in France. While he didn’t like to work on spec or commission, he did take on illustrating literature of authors he admired. John Golding wrote of Picasso that he was “attracted to art that had a literary flavor,” and “preferred the company of writers, particularly poets, to that of other painters and sculptors.” (The Independent) His work illustrating for Balzac inspired the creation of perhaps his most famous work, the anti-war canvas Guernica.

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was a French novelist, playwright, literary critic, art critic, essayist, journalist and printer. He was one of the masters of the French novel. He explored the fantastic, philosophical, poetic, and realist genres. Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu or The Unknown Masterpiece was written about an artist ahead of his time that destroys his secret art when two young painters discover it and think the artist has gone insane. Picasso, writes Thomas Ganzevoort, “had faced something of the same dumbfounded reaction from fellow artists upon showing them his groundbreaking proto-Cubist masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”

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