Honoré de Balzac, Chef d'oeuvre inconnu

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First published in the newly-created journal


in 1831, and reworked in 1837,

Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu

by Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) is a short story or


that the author grouped together in his collected

Comédie humaine

under the heading “Études philosophiques”. Because it is concerned with artistic production (specifically painting), Balzac associated it with two other stories that also explore the creative process,


(1837) and

Massimilla Doni

(1839) (which concern the composition and performance of music). For Balzac, artistic expression of all kinds represents human thought and feeling pushed to the extreme. In these texts (and others), Balzac explores the mesmerizing, terrible and almost super-natural quality that he sees as inherent in artistic…

1561 words

Citation: Gerwin, Elisabeth. "Chef d'oeuvre inconnu". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 23 July 2013 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=21923, accessed 22 April 2024.]

21923 Chef d'oeuvre inconnu 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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