Definition of MASTERPIECE

1: a work done with extraordinary skill; especially : a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement
2: a piece of work presented to a medieval guild as evidence of qualification for the rank of master

NephertitiThank you, Merriam-Webster.

But who decides what constitutes a masterpiece? Apparently a medieval guild… but seriously, who decided the Mona Lisa was a brilliant piece of art? What were the guidelines? Who was the committee?

So really, who decides what is or is not a masterpiece? As far as I’m concerned, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As such, I’ve seen more than my share of masterpieces, but there just isn’t enough room in one post to wax philosophical.

In July 1994, I visited Germany for the first time in my life. I wandered through Berlin, Munich (a.k.a. München), Stuttgart, Lichtenstein, Rothenberg, and many other places. When I was in Berlin, I visited a museum of Egyptian antiquities. In so doing, I had the opportunity to see the Nephertiti. So you stood umpteen feet from the Mona Lisa. I stood four feet from the Nephertiti. She’s beautiful. Sure, she’s a little worse of the wear with some dings here and there. She’s 3,300 years old! You’re gonna wish you looked that good at 3,300 years of age. Also consider the development of civilization at the time she was sculpted and painted and she’s even more amazing. But is she perfect? Nope. Yet she’s a masterpiece nonetheless. (This was shot with a Canon A1 and a 28-80mm lens whose tension is sooo shot, it lets the lens adjust itself… this image is actually a scan from my slide. That’s right, I shot slides on this trip. 700 of them, actually.)

Trier BasilikaTrier BasilikaTrier BasilikaThe next time I ventured to Germany was October 2010… and I saw a masterpiece of a different color. And just as fantastic. The Konstantinbasilika or Aula Palatina in Trier, Germany was built by Emperor Constantine. Okay, not by Constantine. Probably his slaves. The reason I was so dang fascinated is that the hall is cavernous. I stared up at the ceiling, trying to figure out how the hell they did it. Then looking at the walls, I could see the actual tool marks. Seriously?! Awe-some. I still marvel at the engineering that occurred. It was built around 310 AD, for cryin’ out loud! Fantastic! (These were shot with my Canon 5D and my much newer 28-80mm lens. Digital. Much easier than slide film.)

National CathedralIt is nice to know there are masterpieces back here at home, too. In March 2008, I flew to Washington, D.C. with my brother Ethan, sister-in-law Adrianna, sister Julie, and our friend Katie. We paid to ride around town in the red bus, going from place to place. It was the second trip to the city for my sister and I and my brother’s third. None of us had ever been to the National Cathedral. Pretty great. Having toured a good number of old structures in Europe, I was duly impressed with this one in our nation’s capitol. Very cool. The lighting from the stained glass panels was superb… soft and rose-colored. And, as you may recall, I love ceilings! (This was the coming out party for the 5D, but my lenses were a holdover from the Elan IIe that I purchased in 1997. Made me glad I’d spent the money for such good lenses when I found out they were completely compatible with the DSLR.)

Acadia National ParkAnd last, but not least… the best kind of masterpiece. The one for which no human can take credit. I have travelled through a good portion of the United States. I’ve camped in Zion National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve visited Olympic National Park, Redwood National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Carlsbad Canyon National Park, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Oh yes, I really have been to all of them. (See what pictures are yet to come?) Yes, you will see natural wonders that are spectacular. But you know what? Those are God’s masterpieces. I concluded my 2.5-week romp up the east coast on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in April 2012. I arrived at the visitor’s center at 4:25 p.m. (they close at 4:30 p.m.) and the park ranger told me Cadillac Mountain was the best place to shoot sunset. Who was I to argue? I got there quite a few hours early, so I ended up reading as I waited for the main event. It did not disappoint. I shot a number of photos with many variations of color. This was my favorite. The  trees in silhouette as I gazed over the United States, looking west, backed by gorgeous, lush colors. It was quite the cherry on top of my chocolate sundae of a vacation. God outdid Himself that night. What fun He must’ve had as He painted this spectacle.

As I said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t let anyone tell me what is or is not a masterpiece. I leave it to my own interpretation. You should, too!

Inspired by: Masterpiece


8 thoughts on “Masterpieces

  1. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece 2 (Göreme Valley) | What's (in) the picture?

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece | Flickr Comments

  3. Pingback: Photo Project: 52 Bolivian Sundays [week 30, 'Masterpiece']. | 3rdculturechildren

    • Thanks, Terri! It’s kind of fun to look through thousands of photos to see what will or won’t fit for the topic. I don’t really participate as I rarely enjoy “theme” posts, but this subject matter captured my attention. And my photos of the Renoits, Monets, and DaVinci from the National Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. don’t do those masterpieces justice. I almost didn’t remember the Nephertiti! Doh!

      • I agree that it is great fun looking through photos for the challenge – any excuse is good really. Photos aren’t as good as the real thing, but they are an excellent reminder! I did the challenge every week for over a year, and then decided I would only do it when the subject appeals to me. Glad you did this one!

  4. Pingback: Ireland: a masterpiece | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

  5. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge – Masterpiece | Joe's Musings

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