Around 1770, there was a rupture in Messerschmidt’s life. The artist was thought to have psychological problems, lost his position at the university, and decided to return to Wiesensteig, his native Bavarian town. From that period on, Messerschmidt devoted himself to the creation of his “character heads,” the body of work for which he would become best known. To produce these works, the artist would look into the mirror, pinching his body and contorting his face. He then rendered, with great precision, his distorted expressions. Messerschmidt is known to have produced more than 60 of these astonishing works before he died in 1783 at the age of 47.
As someone pointed out, "The Yawner" is probably unique in Western art for its accurate portrayal of the underside of the human tongue... And now, a warning! A cliché.
What piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable!