MESSERSCHMIDT, Franz Xaver
(b. 1736, Wiesensteig, d. 1783, Bratislava)
Character Head: The Beaked1770
Alabaster, height 43 cm
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna
For the Austrian sculptor Franz Xavier Messerschmidt, the facial distortions became his all-consuming subject. In his case they were artificially created for a specific purpose - to ward off the evil spirits who had haunted him since he recovered from a severe illness in 1774. He sought to arrange his grimaces into a scientific system which, believing it would benefit others in similar distress, he portrayed with great realism in sixty-four self-portrait busts.