The Unknown Masterpiece Quotes
by Honoré Balzac

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One important quote from the story is that “Painters have no business to think, except brush in hand.” It is said by Porbus when he first discusses with Poussin the matter of Frenhofer’s studio, which Frenhofer keeps locked. Young Poussin is eager to see the studio, especially the painting which Frenhofer has supposedly been working on for ten years. Porbus, however, sees through Frenhofer’s constant expounding of art theories. He has predicted that Frenhofer is so paralyzed by his knowledge of art, as well as by the fact that he does not necessarily have to make real progress because he is already rich. This is perhaps why Porbus, earlier in the story, does not lash out at Frenhofer’s harsh criticism—because he knows to take such a learned man’s opinion with a grain of salt, for that man may not even practice what he preaches.

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Another telling quote is one said by Gillette, Poussin’s young lover: “Your fame will be the reward of my obedience to your wishes.” Poussin, despite claiming that he will always choose love over art, offers up Gillette to sit nude for Frenhofer if Frenhofer agrees to show his never-seen painting. Gillette feels ashamed at agreeing to this, and she begins to lose respect for Poussin. She agrees because she wants her lover to succeed, and perhaps because she wants to have some hand in his success. In this way, Gillette and Poussin are tied to each other—he somewhat manipulates her into being obedient to his wishes, and she agrees out of desire for his love, but he himself is dependent on her in order to get what he wants. The quote also expresses how deeply an artist’s work can affect other facets of his life, as it does for both Poussin and Frenhofer.