RARE BUST BY MESSERSCHMIDT TO SHOW ITS FACE AT SOTHEBYS A RARE alabaster bust by celebrated Austrian sculptor, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783) which has been unseen by the public since the 19th century, will make its first ever appearance at auction
News-Antique.com - Nov 30,-0001 - A RARE alabaster bust by celebrated Austrian sculptor, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736-1783) which has been unseen by the public since the 19th century, will make its first ever appearance at auction, when it is offered as the highlight of Sotheby's European Sculpture & Works of Art 900-1900 sale on Friday, July 8, 2005.
The bust, later known as Rescued from Drowning, is from the sculptor's legendary limited series of extraordinary self-portrait character heads, produced by the sculptor during the 1770s. The Messerschmidt heads, created in lead, tin alloy, wood and alabaster, were first exhibited as a group in the Vienna exhibition of 1793. Rescued from Drowning was number 29 in the series and is the only original in alabaster believed to be located outside Austria. Of the other alabasters from the 1793 exhibition, two are missing, 10 are in the Österreichische Galerie, Vienna, one is in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien and two formerly in the Sitte Collection in Vienna, are believed to be in private collections in Austria.
Two non-alabaster busts from the series were sold at Sotheby's New York in January 2005 - one in lead, entitled Ill Humoured Man, was purchased by the Louvre, Paris, for $4,832,000 (£2,564,756) - a record price for a work by Messerschmidt at auction and a world auction record for an 18th century sculpture. A second bust in tin alloy, entitled Incapable Bassoonist, sold for $2,480,000 (£1,316,348) against an estimate of $150,000-200,000. The rare alabaster version in Sotheby's sale is estimated to fetch £600,000-800,000*.
Alexander Kader, Head of Sotheby's Sculpture & Works of Art department in London, said: "The fact that this is the first time an alabaster head from the series has ever come to auction and it is the first time that this piece has been seen since the dispersal of the set at the end of the 19th century, makes this work incredibly rare - we therefore anticipate huge interest. This is a fantastic opportunity to acquire an exceptional and rare work from a revolutionary group of 18th century sculpture. The Messerschmidt character heads series set a precedent for self inquiry in art and has been a huge influence on contemporary art ever since. The intensity of emotion that is encapsulated in each head, offers direct and personal impact, which is interpreted differently by each individual and is therefore as engaging to an audience today, as it was when first created."
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt was one of the most progressive and remarkable artists of his time. Born near Ulm in Swabia in 1736, he descended from a long line of Bavarian sculptors and originally trained under his uncle, Johann Baptist Straub, sculptor to the court in Munich. In 1755, following the completion of his apprenticeship, he moved to Vienna to attend the Imperial Academy of Arts. An initial appointment to the Imperial Arsenal, to chisel the decorative elements on canons, led to his first private commission, which was for the Arsenal State Rooms. He was asked to produce