His situation came to a head in 1774 when he applied for the position of leading professor at the Academy (where he had been a teacher since the late 1760s). Far from getting the promotion he expected and desired he was barred from teaching altogether. The Chancellor of State, Count Kaunitz felt compelled to write a letter to the Empress explaining why this had happened. Messerschmidt’s state of mind was referred to as a ‘confusion in the head’ in this letter.
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt was labelled mad in his own century and by the time he died in 1783 he had produced sixty four remarkable busts of himself which reflected his state of mind and his attempt to alleviate his perplexing ailments. They still manage to look more contemporary than a lot of twenty first century art - perhaps madness can be liberating after all.
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