In the 18th century, and possibly even earlier, some painters used a camera obscura and simply copied the image they saw. Not to detract from their skill as painters, but it was a nice form of cribbing. Sculptors like Messerschmidt have no such advantage. And unlike painters they couldn’t cover their mistakes. That just makes these unbelievably impressive to me.
Some googling suggests that a contemporary, Friedrich Nicolai, wrote about Messerschmidt’s motivations. Any chance someone in the know might be able to link an English translation of the original account? I always find it fascinating but haven’t had any luck.
“Girning” aficionados? I believe the word you want is “gurning”.
did you see this partial translation or are you looking for the translation of Nicolai’s complete book ?
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