Man's Magnum Opus. What is the greatest work of art in any medium?

Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 01:00 pm
Ok, this is silly, and yes we are going to compare apples and oranges here, but we'll still get to look at good art, literature et all if you give it a try.

I ask because for years I have held this to be Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, but recently was so impressed by Bernini's sculpture The Rape of Proserpina (you need to, at the very least, find multiple hi-resolution photos from various angles to begin to appreciate this work) and the way he is able to make stone seem more alive (the detail around the hand pressing into Proserpina's leg makes the stone seem soft, it's really something else) than any other sculptor and I would like to revisit my favorite works of art across all mediums.

So give me some nominations. What is man's magnum opus?

Please post them one at a time, with links, photos and more if you can and try not to duplicate what others have posted. That way we can vote (up only, unless it's so awful you can't help yourself) on what our favorite works of art are.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 36 • Views: 72,557 • Replies: 128

Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 01:06 pm
You're on a roll! A bulky roll Robert! Let me give it a thought and I'll return post haste!!
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Robert Gentel
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 01:10 pm
@Robert Gentel,
My first nomination is Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.

Beyond just being therapeutically hypnotic to me this is a legitimately impressive work. He managed to pull off trochaic octameter with fluid rhyming, heavy alliteration, and manages not to sound too much like a overly rhymed jingle by incorporating archaic sentence structure and vocabulary to a legitimately interesting bit of imagery (the plot to the poem alone is not bad) and to me it is a tour de force in English literature. It's memorable not just for the way he said it but for the particular story he told. Really is damn good stuff. Here's the text again:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 01:13 pm
lock up the thread, we got ourselves a winner

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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 01:15 pm
I once memorized the entire poem. Now, I barely recall my own name.
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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 01:18 pm
I nominate the body of Charles Dickens' work. It can be argued that the melodrama lessens the greatness of it, but the paragraphs are endlessly inventive, incomparable.
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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 01:23 pm
This is a place I go to sit and just let it sink in:


Detroit Institute of Art
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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 02:00 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I would put Bethoven's 9th symphony up there against anything.
Robert Gentel
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 02:25 pm
I was going to post that just now (it was one a buddy of mine who I talked to on the phone about it agreed on as a nomination). And after that discussion, I also want to exclude great engineering feats (wonders of the world etc).
0 Replies
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 08:59 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I'm going to nominate Henri Matisse's Dance (I):


Paris, Boulevard des Invalides, early 1909. Oil on canvas, 8' 6 1/2" x 12' 9 1/2" (259.7 x 390.1 cm). MOMA


In March 1909, Matisse received a commission from the Russian merchant Sergei Shchukin for two large decorative panels, Dance and Music (now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). This painting was made quickly as a compositional study for Dance, which was intended to hang on a staircase landing at Shchukin's Trubetskoy Palace, in Moscow. The figure at left appears to move purposefully, while the other dancers seem to float weightlessly. The momentum of their movement breaks the circle as the arm of the foreground dancer reaches out. Dance, Matisse once said, evoked "life and rhythm."

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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:07 pm
@Robert Gentel,
The Healer by Rene Magritte
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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:09 pm
The Gettysburg Address is perfectly written.
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Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:10 pm
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

0 Replies
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:11 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Sam Shepard's True West performed by Gary Sinise and John Malkovich
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:15 pm
@Robert Gentel,
The Scientific Method
Robert Gentel
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:15 pm
The Rape of Proserpina
Gian Lorenzo Bernini

These two angles don't do the sculpture justice. Click on the images for full size versions.



Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:16 pm
Francisco Goya and
The Shootings of May Third 1808
Oil on canvas
104 3/4 x 136 in.
Museo del Prado, Madrid
0 Replies
Robert Gentel
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:18 pm
Ok, in the spirit of our afternoon agreement on engineering exclusions I wonder if concepts and fields of study should be excluded as well? Should stuff like mathematical algorithms count?
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:22 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I don't know. What about fractals? Art or math? You tell me where you want the lines drawn Mr. Question Asker..
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 09:24 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Should stuff like mathematical algorithms count?

These concepts and other scientific works of theory are natural laws discovered by man, not created by man. I vote to exclude they're inclusion.

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