1st Edition

Messerschmidt's Character Heads
Maddening Sculpture and the Writing of Art History

ISBN 9781138213432
Published October 4, 2017 by Routledge
206 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations

USD $170.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Part I: Writing the Artist’s Mind

Introduction to Part I

Chapter 1: Nicolai’s Dreamer

Chapter 2: Kris’s Psychotic

Part II: Writing the Artist’s Context

Introduction to Part II

Chaper 3: Mesmer’s Acolyte

Chapter 4: Lichtenberg’s Ally

Part III: Writing the Artist’s Project

Introduction to Part III

Chapter 5: The Game of Making

Chapter 6: The Envy of the Gods


View More



Michael Yonan is associate professor of art history at the University of Missouri–Columbia, USA. He is a specialist in eighteenth-century European art and material culture.