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franz xaver messerschmidt's heads

news >

more sales: So far unknown plaster casts of the Gorizia pair (on the right above) were sold at auction on december 3rd 2009 for 276.000 swiss franks each.

sales: the two heads that had been stolen by the nazis in 1939, then purchased and displayed by the historical museum of the city of vienna and recently restituted to an heir of their former owner, were sold at auction on january 28th 2005. head #28 was sold for 2.5 million dollars to a private party, #18 went for 4.8 million to the louvre in paris, a record price for an 18th century sculpture. on july 8th, head #29 was sold again at an auction between private parties for 1.8 million dollars.

intro >

i have been researching franz xaver messerschmidt and his «mad heads» (as i like to call them) between 1990 and 2003. in 2004 i published the paperback «49 köpfe» (102 pages, in german only). the book contains a collection of interpretations for each head, information about the artist and his life, and the following most significant conclusions:

> there are not more than 52 original grimacing heads: 49 heads are known and numbered since 1794, plus one head without a number. additionally a pair of heads signed (third picture on the right above). this pair echoes the «beak heads» (#4 and #6), it sold or was given away by the artist during his lifetime. an additional 18 artworks that came to the fore after the artists death are of a different nature.

> the numbers assigned to the 49 heads series, documented for the first time by the initial catalogue of 1794 are not accidental; they follow a bizarre numerological pattern that divides the series into pairs of similar heads.

these observations are now well documented and are published in a scientific paper carrying the consent of the university of zurich. thus, this web site which has been on line since 1997 required a complete restructuring. i hope to be able to have the book translated into english, meanwhile, here's an outline with the most relevant information:

life >

some biographical data about the artists life

table >

a list of the known originals and casts and their whereabouts

pairs >

a gallery with small pictures, explaining the numerological pattern

quotes >

selected sources and retrospective opinions (some in english)

biblio >

a comprehensive bibliography

more >

links to other messerschmidt sites online

mail >

get in touch

site history


first published on a zurich university server
moved to limmat.ch, added numbers, articles, links & faq's
launched "new pages" showing couples, book; updates
updated links, numbers, couples, articles
updated articles
complete restructuring

© 2009