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April 11, 2003

Posted by Teresa at 04:00 PM *

Over on Johan Anglemark’s weblog I ran into a mention of Franz Xavier Messerschmidt [1736-1783], an artist I’d never heard of before. He sculpted striking portrait busts in which his subjects’ faces are set in extreme expressions you wouldn’t normally see in formal portraiture.

It’s remarkable work. And yet, when I look at all those faces at once, I find I can’t help thinking that about two-thirds of those guys just need more fiber in their diet.

Comments on Charakterkopfe:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 05:24 PM:

I find I can’t help thinking that about two-thirds of those guys just need more fiber in their diet.

Actually that appears to have been at least partly the point. The site says "[E]r wollte wissen welchen Gesichtsausdruck man macht, wenn man zum Beispiel starke Bauchschmerzen hat," or "he wanted to know what facial expression one makes when one has, for example, extreme belly pain."

My German is not quite equal to the task of figuring out if he actually sculpted using freshly-dead corpses as models, but there are several references to extreme pain.

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 05:52 PM:

The fellow in the fur hat, top row left end, is the artist himself.

The reason for his interest in abdominal pain: he apparently suffered from lead poisoning, which may well have contributed to his death at age 47.

That self-portrait bust, "The Artist Introduces Himself, Laughing," is 43 cm high, and made of lead.

#3 ::: Cassandra Phillips-Sears ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 07:04 PM:

I just want to hand all of them a tissue.

#4 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 11:11 PM:

In Anderson's There Will Be Time, the 12th-century Byzantine girl diagnoses the "imperious mouth" on a Roman bust: "He wants to make an important speech, and he has gas!"

#5 ::: Damien Warman ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 02:53 PM:

I think I've been on panels with some of these guys.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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