‘An Old Grumpy Soldier’
Coming from a large family of sculptors, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt started his career at the Viennese court of Empress Maria Theresa. He fell ill and was forced to leave Vienna in the early 1770s. In addition to a few regular commissions, he focused on his 'Kopf-Stückhe' (character heads). This bust belongs to a group of 50 heads the artist left behind after his death in 1783. His character heads are famous for their grimacing, sometimes unnaturally distorted faces. One explanation is that with these uncommissioned works Messerschmidt sought to creatively confront his illness.