What a masterpiece is, we all believe we know and think of Dürer, Rembrandt and Velázquez. But what is a masterpiece? It has been forgotten that painters too were once organised in guilds and, like other craftsmen, had to prove their skills with a masterpiece at the end of their long training. Only then were they allowed to sign their paintings, run their own workshops and train them themselves. The exhibition of the Historisches Museum is dedicated for the first time to this forgotten theme of the social history of artists.
The show conveys an idea of the long training of the painter as a craftsman up to the 19th century. As an apprentice and journeyman he learned through imitation and constant repetition to rub the colours, to stretch and prime the canvases and to carry out simple painting tasks. The journeymen also gained experience on their travels through Germany or abroad. In order to become a master himself, the guild order imposed many conditions on the painter, including marriage, the acquisition of citizenship, money payments and often the making of a masterpiece.
The Historisches Museum Frankfurt has a unique collection of more than 45 masterpieces or specimens from the period 1631 to 1858 for research into the social history of artists in Germany. The city of Frankfurt demanded that the painters submit the prescribed masterpiece or specimen for the decoration of the city hall, the Römer. These Frankfurt paintings are compared to other masterpieces of painting from Nuremberg, Hamburg, Lübeck and Burghausen as well as masterpieces of other crafts up to the present.
text source and further information: https://historisches-museum-frankfurt.de/meisterstuecke