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> 1910c

Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood

Freud, Sigmund 1910c, Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood, SE 11: 59-138, trs. from Eine Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci, GW 8: 128. Penguin Freud Library, volume 14: 143-231. [To convert Penguin pagination to SE, subtract 142, multiply by 79/88, and add 58.  So 192 - 142 x 79 ÷ 88 + 58 = 103.]

GMG: What I find striking about Freud's analysis is that he approaches what seems to me to be the inescapable conclusion that Leonardo was painting himself (in the Gioconda, St Anne, John the Baptist, etc.) rather than or as well as two aspects of his mother. He approaches this in his discussion of narcissism (page 191-2 Penguin edition) but then immediately in the very next paragraph talks about the fixation on the 'mnemic image of his mother'.

He finds the objects of his love along the path of narcissism, as we say; for Narcissus, according to the Greek legend, was a youth who preferred his own reflection to every-[192]thing else and who was changed into the lovely flower of that name.
Psychological considerations of a deeper kind justify the assertion that a man who has become a homosexual in this way remains unconsciously fixated to the mnemic image of his mother. (Freud 1910c, SE 11: 103.  Penguin Freud Library, volume 14: 191-2.)

[GMG: In the Penguin edition the childhood memory is quoted on page 172. On page 189 Freud is able to assert this:]

We can now provide the following translation of the emphasis given to the vulture's tail in Leonardo' phantasy: "That was a time when my fond curiosity was directed to my mother, and when I still believed she had a genital organ like my own." (Freud 1910c, Penguin Freud Library, volume 14: 189.)

… the reckonings of the pupils' expenses … would then be another instance of the scanty remnants of Leonardo's libidinal impulses finding expression in a compulsive manner and in a distorted form. (Freud 1910c, Penguin Freud Library, volume 14: 198.)

… his phantasy of the vulture would become intelligible to us: for its meaning was exactly what we have already asserted of that type. We should have to translate it thus: "It was through this erotic relation with my mother that I became a homosexual." ([footnote] The forms of expression in which Leonardo's repressed libido was allowed to show itself—circumstantiality and concern over money—are among the traits of character which result from anal erotism.  See my 'Character and anal erotism' (1908b).  [PFL 7: 205ff.] Freud 1910c, Penguin Freud Library, volume 14: 198.
[One is, of course, reminded of the joke: 'My mother made me a homosexual.' ... 'If I gave her the wool, would she make me one too?'])

From this linking of his mother's (the vulture's) activity with the prominence of the mouth zone it is not difficult to guess that a second memory is contained in the phantasy. This may be translated: "My mother pressed innumerable passionate kisses on my mouth." The phantasy is compounded from the memory of being suckled and being kissed by his mother. (Freud 1910c, Penguin Freud Library, volume 14: 199.)

Leonardo: "He who appeals to authority when there is a difference of opinion works with his memory rather than with this reason." (Leonardo, quoted by Freud: 1910c, Penguin Freud Library, volume 14: 215.)


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