Saturday, October 16, 2010

The "Mad Heads" of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

It's always a good thing when, out of the blue, you become aware of an artist for the first time, and it's especially fun when the artist is some striking, truly original, bizarre character with a wild biography. Such is the case for me with Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783), a sculptor of "mad heads," an article about whom appears in the October 28, 2010 edition of the New York Review of Books and which I read with considerable interest.

The Yawner
Willibald Sauerlander, in the NYR article, notes of Messerschmidt that "There was always something unsettled about his biography, the life of an outsider." Apparently a talented sculptor, at some point his career veered off the path of acceptability and commercial success and he began to sculpt "head pieces" or, as th. schmid, a researcher with a quirky website devoted to the artist, calls them, "mad heads." Made of stone, pewter or lead, the heads are extraordinarily expressive busts, at once both comical and disturbing.

The NYR blog has a slide show of 10 of the heads.

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