In art, a reception piece is a work submitted by an artist to an Academy for approval as part of the requirements for admission to membership.
The piece is normally representative of the artist's work, and the organization's judgement of its skill may or may not form part of the criteria for accepting a new entrant. The work itself is usually retained by the academy, and many academies have large and valuable collections acquired in this way. Alternative terms include diploma work at the Royal Academy in London (where some 18th and 19th century examples are on display), diploma piece, and in France at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, tableau de réception or morceau de réception. The term masterpiece originated in the same way under the earlier system of guilds, including those for artists.
The requirement to submit a reception or diploma piece is closely related to the practice in the medieval period and later of requiring a craftsman to submit one or more virtuoso or test-pieces to a guild to demonstrate his skill before he was granted membership.
Joining an Academy
Membership of an academy may be by genre or technique and limited by numbers or age. The Royal Academy, London, for instance, at one time limited the number of engravers who could join, and where artistic styles and tastes change, new categories of membership may be created as necessary.
When Antoine Watteau applied to join the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, there was no suitable category for his fête galante works, so the academy simply created one rather than reject his application, describing him as a "peintre des festes galantes". While this acknowledged Watteau as the originator of the genre, it also prevented him being recognised as a history painter, the highest class of painter, and the only one from which the academy's professors were drawn. Charles-Antoine Coypel, the son of its then director, later said: "The charming paintings of this gracious painter would be a bad guide for whoever wished to paint the Acts of the Apostles."
Mars and Rhea Silvia by Nicolas Colombel, 1694, for the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture.
François Boucher by Gustav Lundberg, 1741. One of two works by Lundberg presented to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture 1742.
- reception pieces Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online, Getty Museum, 2013. Archived here.
- Chavannes, Meta. "masterpiece" in The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Oxford University Press, 2001. Online edition, Oxford Reference. 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2013
- Kleiner, Fred, S. (Ed.) (2011) Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A global history. Enhanced 13th edn. Boston: Wadsworth, p. 755. ISBN 978-0-495-79986-3
- Clarke, M. & D. (2010) "fête galante" in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. oxfordreference.com, Oxford University Press. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
- Humphrey Wine and Annie Scottez-De Wambrechies. "Watteau" in Grove Art Online. oxfordartonline.com Oxford University Press. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- Getlein, Mark. (2005) Gilbert's living with art. 7th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 422. ISBN 0072859342
- Levey, Michael. (1993) Painting and sculpture in France 1700-1789. New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 164. ISBN 0300064942
- Henry Fuseli, R.A. 1741 - 1825. Thor battering the Midgard Serpent, 1790. Royal Academy of Arts Collections, 3 February 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2014. Archived here.
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