3: How to Carve Rope
Messerschmidt is carving the twisting braid of rope crowning the head, but he is thinking of his friend Mesmer and his knowledge of the invisible fluid that rules us all. How it is affected or blocked by trauma to the body and mind, but has been mastered by Mesmer's science and reason. The temperamental fluid can be smoothed and calmed with the aid of his miraculous magnetic machinery.
He is thinking of the nights in Mesmer’s garden; the rope around his head and waist, or the clamp on his leg and the metal bar in his mouth, and the Baquet- the wood machine with arms like a great fat spider, connecting them all together in Animal Magnetism.
He is carving the braid of rope, rolling his hands over the knot at the forehead like the curves of a churning wave, and he is thinking of cannons. It’s nothing short of fate, when he thinks of his work in the Imperial arms foundries. That carving the designs of curling rope which embellish the cannonades has brought him here. Pulled him like a magnet to this moment. This humble little room and now the rope under his fingers.
He is carving the rope but thinking of how lucky he is to live in an age of transition in reason. He’s learned great things through his study of Ancient Egypt, from his studies of Hermes Trismegustus. And he’s also learned from the masters of his age. From Lavater’s Physiognomy he has learned that we wear ourselves in our faces; our minds might be read in the lines of our expressions and grimaces. And he’s found the way that the truth is all tied- from the masters of Egypt to now- and through to the future.
And he is punished for it every night.
In the pursuit of perfection, it is worthy to attain the state of noble creatures, and creatures don’t show the pink of their lips to each other. So some of his heads will have tightly shut mouths and some will have no lips at all, just a blank bar of metal, as he saw it in Mesmer’s garden.