Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736 – 1783) was a German-Austrian sculptor most famous for his “character heads”, a collection of busts with faces contorted in extreme facial expressions.
It appears that for many years Messerschmidt had been suffering from an undiagnosed digestive complaint, now believed to be Crohn’s disease, which caused him considerable discomfort. In order to focus his thoughts away from his condition, Messerschmidt devised a series of pinches he administered to his right lower rib. Observing the resulting facial expressions in a mirror, Messerschmidt then set about recording them in marble and bronze. His intention, he told Nicolai, was to represent the 64 “canonical grimaces” of the human face using himself as a template … Messerschmidt [also] explain[ed] his interest in necromancy and the arcane, and how this also inspired his character heads. MORE.