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Synopsis

The discussion on the two paintings, the Monna Lisa and SantAnna and the Madonna with the child and on some of the roots of homosexuality is great, and Freud is a great writer.

Freuds attempt to apply the concepts and generalisations of psychoanalysis to the Universal Man, Leonardo da Vinci. The formulations reached in the book have now become pop-Freudian cliches: the subject was doted on by his mother, neglected by his father and therefore developed a homosexual streak. What occured exactly, according to Freud, was an inordinate Oedipal development in which the subject took his fathers domination of the mother as a de facto domination (hence prohibition on the fathers part) of *all* women and hence it triggered a shift from heterosexual to homosexual tendencies. Freud applies his doctrine of infantile sexuality to address other topics such as Leonardos prodigious genius, his scientific pursuits and the fact that he left so many works unfinished.

Freud wrote this short work in 1910, and it was one of the earliest attempts to apply the techniques of psycho-analysis to figures of the past. Here are some representative quotations from the book:

Observation of mens daily lives shows us that most people succeed in directing very considerable portions of their sexual instinctual forces to their professional activity. The sexual instinct is particularly well fitted to make contributions of this kind since it is endowed with a capacity for sublimation.

Under the influence of this threat of castration (the boy) now sees the notion he has gained of the female genitals in a new light; henceforth he will tremble for his masculinity, but at the same time he will despise the unhappy creatures on whom the cruel punishment has, as he supposes, already fallen.

Biologically speaking, religiousness is to be traced to the small human childs long drawn-out helplessness and need of help; and when at a later date he perceives how truly forlorn and weak he is when confronted with the great forces of life, he feels his own condition as he did in childhood, and attempts to deny his own despondency by a regressive revival of the forces which protected his infancy.

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