What is a Masterpiece?

People speak of "presence" when confronted with masterworks of art.
It occurs in that moment, when, before taking in a breath and letting it out, we sense what the Germans call, "Erhebung," i.e., exultation, uplift.

Schopenhauer said that the authentic aesthetic experience came at the moment between the gasp of recognition and uttering the word, "Ahh!"

For me, the following are two of the greatest masterpieces in American art museums: The Crucifixion, with the Mourning Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist, ca. 1460-64, by Rogier van der Weyden, Collection: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Self-portrait with Helene Fournment and their son, ca. 1630's, by Peter Paul Rubens, Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. All of the greatest themes in human life and art are present: creativity in the shape of family, implying regeneration; physical death; and love, both carnal love and spiritual love, which transcends sacrifice and suffering.

The content of these masterpieces serves as models of what art should achieve in order to be universally significant. Not that art of our time should be made the same way, but, art of our time should hold its own against the mainstream of time and fashion. To matter.