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Studies in Art Historiography: Messerschmidt’s Character Heads

4 October 2017
Messerschmidt's Character Heads: Maddening Sculpture and the Writing of Art History (Hardback) book cover

Messerschmidt’s Character Heads

Maddening Sculpture and the Writing of Art History

By Michael Yonan

© 2018 – Routledge

194 pages | 35 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-09-28
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This book examines a famous series of sculptures by the German artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736–1783) known as his “Character Heads.” These are busts of human heads, highly unconventional for their time, representing strange, often inexplicable facial expressions. Scholars have struggled to explain these works of art.  Some have said that Messerschmidt was insane, while others suggested that he tried to illustrate some sort of intellectual system. Michael Yonan argues that these sculptures are simultaneously explorations of art’s power and also critiques of the aesthetic limits that would be placed on that power.


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