The Unknown Masterpiece


Ulrich Noethen reads Honoré de Balzac

arranged by Gerhard Ahrens

on the occasion of the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Conference 2017

Frenhofer, the main character in The Unknown Masterpiece, says that art is not about copying nature but about expressing it. Artists are therefore not merely copyists – they are poets.

Honoré de Balzac’s novella from his La Comédie Humaine collection of novels is set in early 17th century Paris yet illustrates the conflicting views on aesthetics that divided the Romantics and the Realists in the 19th century. It reflects two opposing art theory credos, yet at the same time, it is also a great love story. With his accustomed mastery – intriguing contrasting moods created with brilliant artistry – Balzac tells the story of the rise and fall of the painter Frenhofer, whose self-destructive devotion to his artistic idol drives him into the abyss, in a most marvellous way. Ever since it was first published in 1831, this fantastic story about an artist has inspired artists and art theory experts, as proven for example by Pablo Picasso’s various illustrations and Jacques Rivette’s film version La Belle Noiseuse. Time and again, the novella has fuelled debates about how it is possible to portray that which cannot be portrayed.

The guide on this visit to the universe created by Honoré de Balzac is Ulrich Noethen, one of the great names in his business, known for his versatility and outstanding precision. He is a frequent visitor to Schloss Neuhardenberg (see p. 34).

The Unknown Masterpiece


  • Saturday, 02.12.2017
  • 15.30 Uhr
  • Great Hall

€ 15 / concessions € 11

Advance bookings

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+49 (0)33476 600-750