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Full text of "Leonardo da Vinci : a psychosexual study of an infantile reminiscence"

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Leonardo da Vinci 

A PSYCHOSEXUAL STUDY OF AN 
INFANTILE REMINISCENCE 



BY 

PROFESSOR DR. SIGMUND FREUD, LL.D. 

(UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA) 

TRANSLATED BY 
A. A. BRILL, Ph.B., M.D. 

Lecturer in Psychoanalysis and Abnormal 
' Psychology, New York University 




NEW YORK 

MOFFAT, YARD & COMPANY 

1916 



I 1 •£> 




1 1//) r7) Mact . I, /J, 

'' COPYEIGHT, 1916. BY 

MOFFAT, YARD & COMPANY 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Leonardo Da Vinci Frontispiece 

FACING 
PAGE 

Mona Lisa yS 

Saint Anne 86 

John the Baptist 94 




LEONARDO DA VINCI 



When psychoanalytic investigation, which 
usually contents itself with frail human mate- 
rial, approaches the great personages of hu- 
manity, it is not impelled to it by motives which 
are often attributed to it by laymen. It does 
not strive "to blacken the radiant and to drag 
the sublime into the mire" ; it finds no satisfac- 
tion in diminishing the distance between the 
perfection of the great and the inadequacy of 
the ordinary objects. But it cannot help find- 
ing that everything is worthy of understanding 
that can be perceived through those prototypes, 
and it also believes that none is so big as to be 
ashamed of being subject to the laws which con- 
trol the normal and morbid actions with the 
same strictness. 

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519J was ad- 



2 LEONARDO DA VmCI 

mired even by his contemporaries as one of the 
greatest men of the Italian Renaissance, still 
even then he appeared as mysterious to them as 
he now appears to us. An all-sided genius, 
'Vhose form can only be divined but never 
deeply fathomed/' ^ he exerted the most deci- 
sive influence on his time as an artist ; and it re- 
mained to us to recognize his greatness as a 
naturalist which was united in him with the 
artist. Although he left masterpieces of the 
art of painting, while his scientific discoveries 
remained unpublished and" unused, the investi- 
gator in him has never quite left the artist, 
often it has severely injured the artist and in 
the end it has perhaps suppressed the artist 
altogether. According to Vasari, Leonardo 
reproached himself during the last hour of his 
life for having insulted God and men because 
he has not done his duty to his art.^ And even 
if Vasari's story lacks all probability and be- 
longs to those legends which began to be woven 
about the mystic master while he was still liv- 

1 In the words of J. Burckhard, cited by Alexandra Kon- 
stantinowa, Die Entwicklung des Madonnentypus by Leonardo 
da Vinci, Strassbnrg, 1907. 

2 Vite, etc. LXXXIII. 1550-1584. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 3 

ing, it nevertheless retains indisputable value 
as a testimonial of the judgment of those peo- 
ple and of those times. 

What was it that removed the personality of 
Leonardo from the understanding of his con- 
temporaries? Certainly not the many sided- 
ness of his capacities and knowledge, which al- 
lowed him to install himself as a player of the 
lyre on an instrument invented by himself, in 
the court of Lodovico Sforza, nicknamed II 
Moro, the Duke of Milan, or which allowed 
him to write to the same person that remark- 
able letter in which he boasts of his abilities as 
a civil and military engineer. For the combi- 
nation of manifold talents in the same person 
was not unusual in the times of the Renais- 
sance; to be sure Leonardo himself furnished 
one of the most splendid examples of such per- 
sons. Nor did he belong to that type of genial 
persons who are outwardly poorly endowed by 
nature, and who on their side place no value on 
the outer forms of life, and in the painful 
gloominess of their feelings fly from human 
relations. On the contrary he was tall and 
symmetrically built, of consummate beauty of 



4 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

countenance and of unusual physical strength, 
he was charming in his manner, a master of 
speech, and jovial and affectionate to every- 
body. He loved beauty in the objects of his 
surroundings, he was fond of wearing magnifi- 
cent garments and appreciated every refine- 
ment of conduct. In his treatise ^ on the art 
of painting he compares in a significant pas- 
sage the art of painting with its sister arts and 
thus discusses the difficulties of the sculptor: 
"Now his face is entirely smeared and pow- 
dered with marble dust, so that he looks like a 
baker, he is covered with small marble splin- 
ters, so that it seems as if it snowed on his 
back, and his house is full of stone splinters, 
and dust The case of the painter is quite dif- 
ferent from that; for the painter is well 
dressed and sits with great comfort before his 
work, he gently and very lightly brushes in the 
beautiful colors. He wears as decorative 
clothes as he likes, and his house is filled with 
beautiful paintings and is spotlessly clean. He 
often enjoys company, music, or some one may 

3 Traktat von der Malerei, new edition and introduction by 
Marie Herzfeld, E. Diederichs, Jena, 1909* 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 5 

read for him various nice works, and all this 
can be listened to with great pleasure, undis- 
turbed by any pounding from the hammer and 
other noises." 

It is quite possible that the conception of a 
beaming jovial and happy Leonardo was true 
only for the first and longer period of the mas- 
ter's life. From now on, when the downfall 
of the rule of Lodovico Moro forced him to 
leave Milan, his sphere of action and his as- 
sured position, to lead an unsteady and unsuc- 
cessful life until his last asylum in France, it 
is possible that the luster of his disposition be- 
came pale and some odd features of his char- 
acter became more prominent. The turning of 
his interest from his art to science which in- 
creased with age must have also been respon- 
sible for widening the gap between himself 
and his contemporaries. All his efforts with 
which, according to their opinion, he wasted his 
time instead of diligently filling orders and be- 
coming rich as perhaps his former classmate 
Perugino, seemed to his contemporaries as ca- 
pricious playing, or even caused them to sus- 
pect him of being in the service of the "black 



6 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

art." We who know him from his sketches 
understand him better. In a time in which the 
authority of the church began to be substituted 
by that of antiquity and in which only theo- 
retical investigation existed, he the forerunner, 
or better the worthy competitor of Bacon and 
Copernicus, was necessarily isolated. When 
he dissected cadavers of horses and human be- 
ings, and built flying apparatus, or when he 
studied the nourishment of plants and their be- 
havior towards poisons, he naturally deviated 
much from the commentators of Aristotle and 
came nearer the despised alchemists, in whose 
laboratories the experimental investigations 
found some refuge during these unfavorable 
times. 

The effect that this had on his paintings was 
that he disliked to handle the brush, he painted 
less and what was more often the case, the 
things he began were mostly left unfinished; he 
cared less and less for the future fate of his 
works. It was this mode of working that was 
held up to him as a reproach from his contem- 
poraries to whom his behavior to his art re- 
mained a riddle. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 7 

Many of Leonardo's later admirers have at- 
tempted to wipe off the stain of unsteadiness 
from his character. They maintained that 
what is blamed in Leonardo is a general char- 
acteristic of great artists. They said that even 
the energetic Michelangelo who was absorbed 
in his work left many incompleted works, 
which was as little due to his fault as to Leo- 
nardo's in the same case. Besides some pic- 
tures were not as unfinished as he claimed, and 
what the layman would call a masterpiece may 
still appear to the creator of the work of art as 
an unsatisfied embodiment of his intentions ; he 
has a faint notion of a perfection which he de- 
spairs of reproducing in likeness. Least of all 
should the artist be held responsible for the fate 
which befalls his works. 

As plausible as some of these excuses may 
sound they nevertheless do not explain the 
whole state of affairs which we find in Leo- 
nardo. The painful struggle with the work, 
the final flight from it and the indifference to its 
future fate may be seen in many other artists, 
but this behavior is shown in Leonardo to high- 



8. LEONARDO DA VINCI 

est degree. Edm. Solmi * cites (p. 12) tHe ex- 
pression of one of his pupils : "Pareva, che ad 
ogni ora tremasse, quando si poneva a dipin- 
gere, e pero no diede mai fine ad alcuna cosa 
cominciata, considerando la grandezza dell'arte, 
tal che egli scorgeva errori in quelle cose, che 
ad altri parevano miracoli/' His last pic- 
tures, Leda, the Madonna di Saint Onofrio, 
Bacchus and St. John the Baptist, remained 
unfinished ''come quasi intervenne di tutte le 
cose sue." Lomazzo,^ who finished a copy of 
The Holy Supper, refers in a sonnet to the fa- 
miliar inability of Leonardo to finish his works : 

*Trotogen che il penel di sue pitture 
Non levava, agguaglio il Vinci Divo, 
Di cui opra non e finita pure." 

The slowness with which Leonardo worked 
was proverbial. After the most thorough pre- 
liminary studies he painted The Holy Supper 
for three years in the cloister of Santa Maria 

* Solmi. La resurrezione dell' opera di Leonardo in the col- 
lected work; Leonardo da Vinci. Conferenze Florentine, 
Milan, 1910. 

5 Scognamiglio Ricerche e Documenti sulla giovinezza di 
Leonardo da Vinci. Napoli, 1900. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 9 

delle Grazie in Milan. One of his contem- 
poraries, Matteo BandelH, the writer of novels, 
who was then a young monk in the cloister, re- 
lates that Leonardo often ascended the scaffold 
very early in the morning and did not leave the 
brush out of his hand until twilight, never 
thinking of eating or drinking. Then days 
passed without putting his hand on it, some- 
times he remained for hours before the paint- 
ing and derived satisfaction from studying it 
by himself. At other times he came directly 
to the cloister from the palace of the Milanese 
Castle where he formed the model of the eques- 
trian statue for Francesco Sforza, in order to 
add a few strokes with the brush to one of the 
figures and then stopped immediately.® Ac- 
cording to Vasari he worked for years on the 
portrait of Monna Lisa, the wife of the Floren- 
tine de Gioconda, without being able to bring 
it to completion. This circumstance may also 
account for the fact that it was never delivered 
to the one who ordered it but remained 
with Leonardo who took it with him to 

^W. V. Seidlitz. Leonardo da Vinci, der Wendepunkt der 
Renaissance, 1909, Bd. I, p. 203. 



10 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

France/ Having been procured by King 
Francis I, it now forms one of the greatest- 
treasures of the Louvre. 

When one compares these reports about 
Leonardo's way of working with the evidence 
of the extraordinary amount of sketches and 
studies left by him, one is bound altogether to 
reject the idea that traits of flight iness and 
unsteadiness exerted the slightest influence on 
Leonardo's relation to his art. On the con- 
trary one notices a very extraordinary absorp- 
tion in work, a richness in possibilities in which 
a decision could be reached only hestitatingly, 
claims which could hardly be satisfied, and 
an inhibition in the execution which could 
not even be explained by the inevitable back- 
wardness of the artist behind his ideal pur- 
pose. The slowness which was striking in 
Leonardo's works from the very beginning 
proved to be a symptom of his inhibition, a 
forerunner of his turning away from painting 
which manifested itself later.^ It was this 

7 W. V. Seidlitz, 1. c. Bd. II, p. 48. 

8 W. Pater. The Renaissance, p. 107, The Macmillan Co., 
1910. "But it is certain that at one period of his life he had 
almost ceased to be an artist." 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 1 1 

slowness which decided the not undeserving 
fate of The Holy Supper. Leonardo could not 
take kindly to the art of fresco painting which 
demands quick work while the background 
IS still moist, it was for this reason that he 
chose oil colors, the drying of which permitted 
him to complete the picture according to his 
mood and leisure. But these colors separated 
themselves from the background upon which 
they were painted and which isolated them 
from the brick wall ; the blemishes of this wall 
and the vicissitudes to which the room was sub- 
jected seemingly contributed to the inevitable 
deterioration of the picture.^ 

The picture of the cavalry battle of An- 
ghiari, which in competition with Michelangelo 
he began to paint later on a wall of the Sala de 
Consiglio in Florence and which he also left in 
an unfinished state, seemed to have perished 
through the failure of a similar technical proc- 
ess. It seems here as if a peculiar interest, 
that of the experimenter, at first reenf orced the 
artistic, only later to damage the art production. 

® Cf . V. Seidlitz, Bd. I die Geschichte der Restaurations — 
und Rettungsversuche. 



12 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

The character of the man Leonardo evinces 
still some other unusual traits and apparent 
contradictions. Thus a certain inactivity and 
indifference seemed very evident in him. At a 
time when every individual sought to gain the 
widest latitude for his activity, which could not 
take place without the development of energetic 
aggression towards others, he surprised every 
one through his quiet peacefulness, his shun- 
ning of all competition and controversies. He 
was mild and kind to all, he was said to have 
rejected a meat diet because he did not con- 
sider it just to rob animals of their lives, and 
one of his special pleasures was to buy caged 
birds in the market and set them free.^^ He 
condemned war and bloodshed and designated 
man not so much as the king of the animal 
world, but rather as the worst of the wild 
beasts. ^^ But this effeminate delicacy of feel- 
ing did not prevent him from accompanying 

10 Miintz. Leonard de Vinci, Paris, 1899, p. 18. (A letter 
of a contemporary from India to a Medici alludes to this pe- 
culiarity of Leonardo Given by Richter : The literary Works 
of Leonardo da Vmci.) 

11 F. Botazzi. Leonardo biologo e anatomico. Conferenze 
Florentine, p. 186, 1910. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 13 

condemned criminals on their way to execution 
in order to study and sketch in his notebook 
their features, distorted by fear, nor did it pre- 
vent him from inventing the most cruel offen- 
sive weapons, and from entering the service of 
Cesare Borgia as chief military engineer. 
Often he seemed to be indifferent to good and 
evil, or he had to be measured with a special 
standard. He held a high position in Cesare's 
campaign which gained for this most inconsid- 
erate and most faithless of foes the possession 
of the Romagna. Not a single line of Leonar- 
do's sketches betrays any criticism or sympathy 
of the events of those days. The comparison 
with Goethe during the French campaign can- 
not here be altogether rejected. 

If a biographical effort really endeavors to 
penetrate the understanding of the psychic life 
of its hero it must not, as happens in most biog- 
raphies through discretion or prudery, pass 
over in silence the sexual activity or the sex 
peculiarity of the one examined. What we 
know about it in Leonardo is very little but full 
of significance. In a period where there was 
a constant struggle between riotous licentious- 



14 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

ness and gloomy asceticism, Leonardo pre- 
sented an example of cool sexual rejection 
which one would not expect in an artist and a 
portrayer of feminine beauty. Solmi ^^ cites 
the following sentence from Leonardo showing 
his frigidity: 'The act of procreation and 
everything that has any relation to it is so dis- 
gusting that human beings would soon die out 
if it were not a traditional custom and if there 
were no pretty faces and sensuous disposi- 
tions/' His posthumous works which not only 
treat of the greatest scientific problems but also 
comprise the most guileless objects which to us 
do not seem worthy of so great a mind (an 
allegorical natural history, animal fables, wit- 
ticisms, prophecies ),^^ are chaste to a degree — 
one might say abstinent — that in a work of 
belle lettres would excite wonder even to-day. 
They evade everything sexual so thoroughly, 
as if Eros alone who preserves everything liv- 
ing was no worthy material for the scientific 

12 E. Solmi: Leonardo da Vinci. German Translation by 
Emmi Hirschberg. Berlin, 1908. 

13 Marie Herzf eld : Leonardo da Vinci der Denker, 
Forscher und Poet. Second edition. Jena, 1906. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 15 

impulse of the investigator.^* It is known how 
frequently great artists found pleasure in giv- 
ing vent to their phantasies in erotic and even 
grossly obscene representations; in contradis- 
tinction to this Leonardo left only some ana- 
tomical drawings of the woman's internal gen- 
itals, the position of the child in the womb, etc. 
It is doubtful whether Leonardo ever em^ 
braced a woman in love, nor is it known that 
he ever entertained an intimate spiritual rela- 
tion with a woman as in the case of Michel- 
angelo and Vittoria Colonna. While he still 
lived as an apprentice in the house of his mas- 
ter Verrocchio, he with other young men were 
accused of forbidden homosexual relations 
which ended in his acquittal. It seems that he 
came into this suspicion because he employed 
as a model a boy of evil repute.^^ When he 
was a master he surrounded himself with band- 
it His collected witticisms — ^belle facezie, — which are not 
translated, may be an exception. Cf. Herzfeld, Leonardo da 
Vinci, p. 151. 

15 According to Scognamiglio (1. c. p. 49) reference is made 
to this episode in an obscure and even variously interpreted 
passage of the Codex Atlanticus : "Quando io feci Domened- 
dio putto voi mi metteste in prigione, ora s'io lo fo grande, 
voi mi f arete peggio." 



i6 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

some boys and youths whom he took as pupils. 
The last of these pupils Francesco Melzi, ac- 
companied him to France, remained with him 
until his death, and was named by him as his 
heir. Without sharing the certainty of his 
modern biographers, who naturally reject the 
possibility of a sexual relation between himself 
and his pupils as a baseless insult to this great 
man, it may be thought by far more probable 
that the affectionate relationships of Leonardo 
to the young men did not result in sexual ac- 
tivity. Nor should one attribute to him a high 
measure of sexual activity. 

The peculiarity of this emotional and sex- 
ual life viewed in connection with Leonar- 
do's double nature as an artist and investiga- 
tor can be grasped only in one way. Of the 
biographers to whom psychological viewpoints 
are often very foreign, only one, Edm. Solmi, 
has to my knowledge approached the solu- 
tion of the riddle. But a writer, Dimitri 
Sergewitsch Merejkowski, who selected Leo- 
nardo as the hero of a great historical novel 
has based his delineation on such an under- 
standing of this unusual man, and if not in dry 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 17 

words he gave unmistakable utterance in plas- 
tic expression in the manner of a poet/^ Solmi 
judges Leonardo as follows: ''But the unre- 
quited desire to understand everything sur- 
rounding him, and with cold reflection to dis- 
cover the deepest secret of everything that is 
perfect, has condemned Leonardo's works to 
remain forever unfinished." " In an essay of 
the Conferenze Fiorentine the utterances of 
Leonardo are cited, which show his confession 
of faith and furnish the key to his character. 

''Nessuna cosa si pud amare ne odiare, se 
prima no si ha cognition di quellaf ^^ 

That is: One has no right to love or to 
hate anything if one has not acquired a thor- 
ough knowledge of its nature. And the same 
is repeated by Leonardo in a passage of the 
Treaties on the Art of Painting where he seems 

16 Merejkowski : The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, 
translated by Herbert Trench, G. P. Putnam Sons, New York. 
It forms the second of the historical Trilogy entitled Christ 
and Anti-Christ, of which the first volume is Julian Apostata, 
and the third volume is Peter the Great and Alexei. 

17 Solmi 1. c. p. 46. 

18 Filippo Botazzi, 1. c. p. 193. 



i8 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

to defend himself against the accusation of ir- 
religiousness : 

"But such censurers might better remain si- 
lent. For that action is the manner of show- 
ing the workmaster so many wonderful things, 
and this is the way to love so great a discoverer. 
For, verily great love springs from great 
knowledge of the beloved object, and if you 
little know it you will be able to love it only 
little or not at all." '^ 

The value of these utterances of Leonardo 
cannot be found in that they impart to us an 
important psychological fact, for what they 
maintain is obviously false, and Leonardo must 
have known this as well as we do. It is not 
true that people refrain from loving or hat- 
ing until they have studied and became famil- 
iar with the nature of the object to whom they 
wish to give these affects, on the contrary they 
love impulsively and are guided by emotional 
motives which have nothing to do with cogni- 
tion and whose affects are weakened, if any- 
thing, by thought and reflection. Leonardo 

i» Marie Herzfeld: Leonardo da Vinci, Traktat von der 
Malerei, Jena, 1909 (Chap. I, 64). 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 19 

only could have implied that the love practiced 
by people is not of the proper and unobjection- 
able kind, one should so love as to hold back 
the affect and to subject it to mental elabora- 
tion, and only after it has stood the test of the 
intellect should free play be given to it. And 
we thereby understand that he wishes to tell 
us that this was the case with himself and 
that it would be worth the effort of everybody 
else to treat love and hatred as he himself does. 
And it seems that in his case it was really 
so. His affects were controlled and subjected 
to the investigation impulse, he neither loved 
nor hated, but questioned himself whence does 
that arise, which he was to love or hate, and 
what does it signify, and thus he was at first 
forced to appear indifferent to good and evil, 
to beauty and ugliness. During this work of 
investigation love and hatred threw off their 
designs and uniformly changed into intellectual 
interest. As a matter of fact Leonardo was 
not dispassionate, he did not lack the divine 
spark which is the mediate or immediate motive 
power — il primo motore — of all human activ- 
ity. He only transmuted his passion into in- 



20 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

quisitiveness. He then applied himself to 
study with that persistence, steadiness, and 
profundity which comes from passion, and on 
the height of the psychic work, after the cog- 
nition was won, he allowed the long checked 
affect to break loose and to flow off freely like 
a branch of a stream, after it has accomplished 
its work. At the height of his cognition when 
he could examine a big part of the whole he 
was seized with a feeling of pathos, and in 
ecstatic words he praised the grandeur of that 
part of creation which he studied, or — in reli- 
gious cloak — the greatness of the creator. 
Solmi has correctly divined this process of 
transformation in Leonardo. According to 
the quotation of such a passage, in which Leo- 
nardo celebrated the higher impulse of nature 
C'O mirabile necessita . . .")hesaid: "Tale 
trasfigurazione della scienza della natura in 
emozione, quasi direi, religiosa, e uno dei tratti 
caratteristici de manoscritti vinciani, e si trova 
cento e cento volte espressa. . . ." ^^ 

20 "Such transfiguration of science and of nature into emo- 
tions, or one might say, religion, is one of the characteristic 
traits of da Vinci's manuscripts, which one finds expressed 
hundreds of times." Solmi: La resurrezione, etc., p. ii. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 21 

Leonardo was called the Italian Faust on ac- 
count of his insatiable and indefatigable desire 
for investigation. But even if we disregard 
the fact that it is the possible retransf ormation 
of the desire for investigation into the joys 
of life which is presupposed in the Faust trag- 
edy, one might venture to remark that Leon- 
ardo's system recalls Spinoza's mode of think- 
ing. 

The transformation of psychic motive power 
into the different forms of activity is perhaps 
as little convertible without loss, as in the 
case of physical powers. Leonardo's example 
teaches how many other things one must follow 
up in these processes. Not to love before one 
gains full knowledge of the thing loved pre- 
supposes a delay which is harmful. When one 
finally reaches cognition he neither loves nor 
hates properly; one remains beyond love and 
hatred. One has investigated instead of hav- 
ing loved. It is perhaps for this reason that 
Leonardo's life was so much poorer in love than 
those of other great men and great artists. 
The storming passions of the soul-stirring and 
consuming kind, in which others experience the 



22 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

best part of their lives, seem to have missed 
him. 

There are still other consequences when one 
follows Leonardo's dictum. Instead of acting 
and producing one just investigates. He who 
begins to divine the grandeur of the universe 
and its needs readily forgets his own insig- 
nificant self. When one is struck with admi- 
ration and becomes truly humble he easily for- 
gets that he himself is a part of that living 
force, and that according to the measure of 
his own personality he has the right to make an 
effort to change that destined course of the 
world, the world in which the insignificant is 
no less wonderful and important than the 
great. 

Solmi thinks that Leonardo's investigations 
started with his art,^^ he tried to investigate 
the attributes and laws of light, of color, of 
shades and of perspective so as to be sure of 
becoming a master in the imitation of nature 
and to be able to show the way to others. It 

21 La resurrezione, etc., p. 8 : "Leonardo placed the study of 
nature as a precept to painting . . . later the passion for study- 
became dominating, he no longer wished to acquire science for 
art, but science for science' sake/* 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 23 

is probable that already at that time he over- 
estimated the value of this knowledge for the 
artist. Following the guide-rope of the paint- 
er's need, he was then driven further and fur- 
ther to investigate the objects of the art of 
painting, such as animals and plants, and the 
proportions of the human body, and to follow 
the path from their exterior to their interior 
structure and biological functions, which really 
also express themselves in their appearance 
and should be depicted in art. And finally he 
was pulled along by this overwhelming desire 
until the connection was torn from the de- 
mands of his art, so that he discovered the gen- 
eral laws of mechanics and divined the history 
of the stratification and fossilization of the 
Arno-valley, until he could enter in his book 
with capital letters the cognition: // sole non 
si move (The sun does not move). His inves- 
tigations were thus extended over almost all 
realms of natural science, in every one of which 
he was a discoverer or at least a prophet or 
forerunner.^^ However, his curiosity contin- 
ued to be directed to the outer world, some- 

22 For an enumeration of his scientific attainments see Marie 



24 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

thing kept him away from the investigation of 
the psychic Hfe of men; there was Httle room 
for psychology in the *'Academia Vinciana," 
for which he drew very artistic and very com- 
phcated emblems. 

When he later made the effort to return from 
his investigations to the art from which he 
started he felt that he was disturbed by the 
new paths of his interest and by the changed 
nature of his psychic work. In the picture he 
was interested above all in a problem, and be- 
hind this one he saw emerging numerous other 
problems just as he was accustomed in the end- 
less and indeterminable investigations of nat- 
ural history. He was no longer able to limit 
his demands, to isolate the work of art, and 
to tear it out from that great connection of 
which he knew it formed part. After the most 
exhausting efforts to bring to expression all 
that was in him, all that was connected with it 
in his thoughts, he was forced to leave it un- 
finished, or to declare it incomplete. 

The artist had once taken into his service 

Herzfeld's interesting introduction (Jena, 1906) to the essays 
of the Conferenze Fiorentine, 19 10, and elsewhere. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 25 

the investigator to assist him, now the servant 
was stronger and suppressed his master. 

When we find in the portrait of a person one 
single impulse very forcibly developed, as curi- 
osity in the case of Leonardo, we look for the 
explanation in a special constitution, concern- 
ing its probable organic determination hardly 
anything is known. Our psychoanalytic stud- 
ies of nervous people lead us to look for two 
other expectations which we would like to find 
verified in every case. We consider it prob- 
able that this very forcible impulse was already 
active in the earliest childhood of the person, 
and that its supreme sway was fixed by infan- 
tile impressions; and we further assume that 
originally it drew upon sexual motive powers 
for its reenforcement so that it later can take 
the place of a part of the sexual life. Such 
person would then, e.g., investigate with that 
passionate devotion which another would give 
to his love, and he could investigate instead of 
loving. We would venture the conclusion of 
a sexual reenforcement not only in the impulse 
to investigate, but also in most other cases of 
special intensity of an impulse. 



26 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

Observation of daily life shows us that most 
persons have the capacity to direct a very tan- 
gible part of their sexual motive powers to 
their professional or business activities. The 
sexual impulse is particularly suited to yield 
such contributions because it is endowed with 
the capacity of sublimation, i.e., it has the 
power to exchange its nearest aim for others 
of higher value which are not sexual. We 
consider this process as proved, if the history 
of childhood or the psychic developmental his- 
tory of a person shows that in childhood this 
powerful impulse was in the service of the sex- 
ual interest. We consider it a further cor- 
roboration if this is substantiated by a strik- 
ing stunting in the sexual life of mature years, 
as if a part of the sexual activity had now been 
replaced by the activity of the predominant im- 
pulse. 

The application of these assumptions to the 
case of the predominant investigation-impulse 
seems to be subject to special difficulties, as one 
is unwilling to admit that this serious impulse 
exists in children or that children show any 
noteworthy sexual interest. However, these 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 27 

difficulties are easily obviated. The untiring 
pleasure in questioning as seen in little children 
demonstrates their curiosity, which is puzzling 
to the grown-up, as long as he does not under- 
stand that all these questions are only circum- 
locutions, and that they cannot come to an end 
because they replace only one question which 
the child does not put. When the child be- 
comes older and gains more understanding this 
manifestation of curiosity suddenly disappears. 
But psychoanalytic investigation gives us a full 
explanation in that it teaches us that many, 
perhaps most children, at least the most gifted 
ones, go through a period beginning with the 
third year, which may be designated as the 
period of infantile sexual investigation. As 
far as we know, the curiosity is not awakened 
spontaneously in children of this age, but is 
aroused through the impression of an impor- 
tant experience, through the birth of a little 
brother or sister, or through fear of the same 
endangered by some outward experience, 
wherein the child sees a danger to his egotistic 
interests. The investigation directs itself to 
the question whence children come, as if the 



28 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

child were looking for means to guard against 
such undesired event. We were astonished to 
find that the child refuses to give credence to the 
information imparted to it, e.g., it energetically 
rejects the mythological and so ingenious stork- 
fable, we were astonished to find that its 
psychic independence dates from this act of dis- 
belief, that it often feels itself at serious vari- 
ance with the grown-ups, and never forgives 
them for having been deceived of the truth on 
this occasion. It investigates in its own way, 
it divines that the child is in the mother's 
womb, and guided by the feelings of its own 
sexuality, it formulates for itself theories about 
the origin of children from food, about being 
born through the bowels, about the role of the 
father which is difficult to fathom, and even 
at that time it has a vague conception of the 
sexual act which appears to the child as some- 
thing hostile, as something violent. But as its 
own sexual constitution is not yet equal to the 
task of producing children, his investigation 
whence come children must also run aground 
and must be left in the lurch as unfinished. 
The impression of this failure at the first at- 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 29 

tempt of intellectual independence seems to be 
of a persevering and profoundly depressing 
nature.^^ 

If the period of infantile sexual investigation 
comes to an end through an impetus of ener- 
getic sexual repression, the early association 
with sexual interest may result in three differ- 
ent possibilities for the future fate of the in- 
vestigation impulse. The investigation either 
shares the fate of the sexuality, the curiosity 
henceforth remains inhibited and the free ac- 
tivity of intelligence may become narrowed for 
life ; this is especially made possible by the pow- 
erful religious inhibition of thought, which is 
brought about shortly hereafter through educa- 
tion. This is the type of neurotic inhibition. 
We know well that the so acquired mental 
weakness furnishes effective support for the 

23 For a corroboration of this improbable sounding assertion 
see the "Analysis of the Phobia of a Five-year-old Boy," 
Jahrbuch fur Psychoanalytische und Psychopathologische 
Forschungen, Bd. I, 1909, and the similar observation in Bd. II, 
1910. In an essay concerning "Infantile Theories of Sex" 
(Sammlungen kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, p. 167, 
Second Series, 1909), I wrote : "But this reasoning and doubt- 
ing serves as a model for all later intellectual work in prob- 
lems, and the first failure acts as a paralyzer for all times." 



30 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

outbreak o£ a neurotic disease. In a second 
type the intellectual development is sufficiently 
strong to withstand the sexual repression pull- 
ing at it. Sometimes after the disappearance 
of the infantile sexual investigation, it offers 
its support to the old association in order to 
elude the sexual repression, and the suppressed 
sexual investigation comes back from the un- 
conscious as compulsive reasoning, it is nat- 
urally distorted and not free, but forceful 
enough to sexualize even thought itself and to 
accentuate the intellectual operations with the 
pleasure and fear of the actual sexual proc- 
esses. Here the investigation becomes sexual 
activity and often exclusively so, the feeling of 
settling the problem and of explaining things 
in the mind is put in place of sexual gratifica- 
tion. But the indeterminate character of the 
infantile investigation repeats itself also in the 
fact that this reasoning never ends, and that 
the desired intellectual feeling of the solution 
constantly recedes into the distance. By vir- 
tue of a special disposition the third, which is 
the most rare and most perfect type, escapes 
the inhibition of thought and the compulsive 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 31 

reasoning. Also here sexual repression takes 
place, it is unable, however, to direct a partial 
impulse of the sexual pleasure into the uncon- 
scious, but the libido withdraws from the fate 
of the repression by being sublimated from the 
beginning into curiosity, and by reenforcing 
the powerful investigation impulse. Here, 
too, the investigation becomes more or less 
compulsive and a substitute of the sexual ac- 
tivity, but owing to the absolute difference of 
the psychic process behind it (sublimation in 
place of the emergence from the unconscious) 
the character of the neurosis does not manifest 
itself, the subjection to the original complexes 
of the infantile sexual investigation disappears, 
and the impulse can freely put itself in the 
service of the intellectual interest. It takes 
account of the sexual repression which made it 
so strong in contributing to it sublimated 
libido, by avoiding all occupation with sexual 
themes. 

In mentioning the concurrence in Leonardo 
of the powerful investigation impulse with the 
stunting of his sexual life which was limited to 
the so-called ideal homosexuality, we feel in- 



32 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

dined to consider him as a model example of 
our third type. The most essential point of 
his character and the secret of it seems to lie 
in the fact, that after utilizing the infantile ac- 
tivity of curiosity in the service of sexual in- 
terest he was able to sublimate the greater part 
of his libido into the impulse of investigation. 
But to be sure the proof of this conception is 
not easy to produce. To do this we would have 
to have an insight into the psychic development 
of his first childhood years, and it seems fool- 
ish to hope for such material when the reports 
concerning his life are so meager and so un- 
certain ; and moreover, when we deal with in- 
formation which even persons of our own gen- 
eration withdraw from the attention of the 
observer. 

We know very little concerning Leonardo's 
youth. He was born in 1452 in the little city 
of Vinci between Florence and Empoli ; he was 
an illegitimate child which was surely not con- 
sidered a great popular stain in that time. His 
father was Ser Piero da Vinci, a notary and 
descendant of notaries and farmers, who took 
their name from the place Vinci; his mother, 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 33 

a certain Caterina, probably a peasant girl, who 
later married another native of Vinci. Noth- 
ing else about his mother appears in the life his- 
tory of Leonardo, only the writer Merejkowski 
believed to have found some traces of her. 
The only definite information about Leonar- 
do's childhood is furnished by a legal document 
from the year 1457, a register of assessment in 
which Vinci Leonardo is mentioned among the 
members of the family as a five-year-old ille- 
gitimate child of Ser Piero.^* As the mar- 
riage of Ser Piero with Donna Albiera re- 
mained childless the little Leonardo could be 
brought up in his father's house. He did not 
leave this house until he entered as apprentice 
— it is not known what year — in the studio of 
Andrea del Verrocchio. In 1472 Leonardo's 
name could already be found in the register of 
the members of the ''Compagnia dei Pittori." 
That is all. 

2* Scognamiglio 1. c, p. 15. 



II 

As far as I know Leonardo only once in- 
terspersed in his scientific descriptions a com- 
munication from his childhood. In a passage 
where he speaks about the flight of the vulture, 
he suddenly interrupts himself in order to fol- 
low up a memory from very early years which 
came to his mind. 

"It seems that it had been destined before 
that I should occupy myself so thoroughly with 
the vulture J for it comes to my mind as a very 
early memory, when I was still in the cradle, 
a vulture came down to me, he opened my 
mouth with his tail and struck me a few times 
with his tail against my lips/' ^ 

We have here an infantile memory and to 
be sure of the strangest sort. It is strange on 
account of its content and account of the time 
of life in which it was fixed. That a person 

1 Cited by Scognamiglio from the Codex Atlanticus, p. 65. 

34 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 35 

could retain a memory of the nursing period is 
perhaps not impossible, but it can in no way 
be taken as certain. But what this memory of 
Leonardo states, namely, that a vulture opened 
the child's mouth with its tail, sounds so im- 
probable, so fabulous, that another conception 
which puts an end to the two difficulties with 
one stroke appeals much more to our judgment. 
The scene of the vulture is not a memory of 
Leonardo, but a phantasy which he formed 
later, and transferred into his childhood. The 
childhood memories of persons often have no 
different origin, as a matter of fact, they are 
not fixated from an experience like the con- 
scious memories from the time of maturity and 
then repeated, but they are not produced until 
a later period when childhood is already past, 
they are then changed and disguised and put in 
the service of later tendencies, so that in gen- 
eral they cannot be strictly differentiated from 
phantasies. Their nature will perhaps be best 
understood by recalling the manner in which 
history writing originated among ancient na- 
tions. As long as the nation was small and 
weak it gave no thought to the writing of its 



36 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

history, it tilled the soil of its land, defended 
its existence against its neighbors by seeking 
to wrest land from them and endeavored to 
become rich. It was a heroic but unhistoric 
time. Then came another age, a period of 
self-realization in which one felt rich and pow- 
erful, and it was then that one experienced 
the need to discover whence one originated 
and how one developed. The history-writing 
which then continues to register the present 
events throws also its backward glance to the 
past, it gathers traditions and legends, it in- 
terprets what survived from olden times into 
customs and uses, and thus creates a history 
of past ages. It is quite natural that this his- 
tory of the past ages is more the expressions 
of opinions and desires of the present than a 
faithful picture of the past, for many a thing 
escaped the people's memory, other things be- 
came distorted, some trace of the past was mis- 
understood and interpreted in the sense of the 
present ; and besides one does not write history 
through motives of objective curiosity, but be- 
cause one desires to impress his contempor- 
aries, to stimulate and extol them, or to hold the 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 37 

mirror before them. The conscious memory 
of a person concerning the experiences of his 
maturity may now be fully compared to that of 
history writing, and his infantile memories, as 
far as their origin and reliability are concerned 
will actually correspond to the history of the 
primitive period of a people which was com- 
piled later with purposive intent. 

Now one may think that if Leonardo's story 
of the vulture which visited him in his cradle 
is only a phantasy of later birth, it is hardly 
worth while giving more time to it. One 
could easily explain it by his openly avowed 
inclination to occupy himself with the problem 
of the flight of the bird which would lend to 
this phantasy an air of predetermined fate. 
But with this depreciation one commits as great 
an injustice as if one would simply ignore the 
material of legends, traditions, and interpreta- 
tions in the primitive history of a people. Not- 
withstanding all distortions and misunder- 
standings to the contrary they still represent 
the reality of the past ; they represent what the 
people formed out of the experiences of its past 
age under the domination of once powerful and 



38 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

to-day still effective motives, and if these dis- 
tortions could be unraveled through the knowl- 
edge of all effective forces, one would surely 
discover the historic truth under this legendary 
material. The same holds true for the infan- 
tile reminiscences or for the phantasies of indi- 
viduals. What a person thinks he recalls from 
his childhood, is not of an indifferent nature. 
As a rule the memory remnants, which he him- 
self does not understand, conceal invaluable 
evidences of the most important features of his 
psychic development. As the psychoanalytic 
technique affords us excellent means for bring- 
ing to light this concealed material, we shall 
venture the attempt to fill the gaps in the his- 
tory of Leonardo's life through the analysis of 
his infantile phantasy. And if we should not 
attain a satisfactory degree of certainty, we 
will have to console ourselves with the fact that 
so many other investigations about this great 
and mysterious man have met no better fate. 

When we examine Leonardo's vulture-phan- 
tasy with the eyes of a psychoanalyst then it 
does not seem strange very long; we recall that 
we have often found similar structures in 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 39 

dreams, so that we may venture to translate 
this phantasy from its strange language into 
words that are universally understood. The 
translation then follows an erotic direction. 
Tail, ''coda," is one of the most familiar sym- 
bols, as well as a substitutive designation of the 
male member which is no less true in Italian 
than in other languages. The situation con- 
tained in the phantasy, that a vulture opened 
the mouth of the child and forcefully belabored 
it with its tail, corresponds to the idea of fella- 
tio, a sexual act in which the member is placed 
into the mouth of the other person. Strangely 
enough this phantasy is altogether of a passive 
character; it resembles certain dreams and 
phantasies of women and of passive homosex- 
uals who play the feminine part in sexual re- 
lations. 

Let the reader be patient for a while and not 
flare up with indignation and refuse to follow 
psychoanalysis because in its very first applica- 
tions it leads to an unpardonable slander of the 
memory of a great and pure man. For it is 
quite certain that this indignation will never 
solve for us the meaning of Leonardo's child- 



40 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

hood phantasy; on the other hand, Leonardo 
has unequivocally acknowledged this phantasy, 
and we shall therefore not relinquish the ex- 
pectation — or if you prefer the preconception — 
that like every psychic production such as 
dreams, visions and deliria this phantasy, too, 
must have some meaning. Let us therefore 
lend our unprejudiced ears for a while to psy- 
choanalytic work which after all has not yet 
uttered the last word. 

The desire to take the male member into the 
mouth and suck it, which is considered as one 
of the most disgusting of sexual perversions, 
is nevertheless a frequent occurrence among 
the women of our time — and as shown in old 
sculptures was the same in earlier times — and 
in the state of being in love seems to lose en- 
tirely its disgusting character. The physician 
encounters phantasies based on this desire, 
even in women who did not come to the knowl- 
edge of the possibility of such sexual gratifica- 
tion by reading v. Krafft-Ebing's Psycho- 
pathia Sexualis or through other information. 
It seems that it is quite easy for the women 
themselves to produce such wish-phanta- 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 41 

sies,^ Investigation then teaches us that this 
situation, so forcibly condemned by custom, 
may be traced to the most harmless origin. It 
is nothing but the elaboration of another situa- 
tion in which we all once felt comfort, namely, 
when we were in the suckling-age (^'when I was 
still in the cradle") and took the nipple of our 
mother's or wet-nurse's breast into our mouth 
to suck it. The organic impression of this first 
pleasure in our lives surely remains indelibly 
impregnated; when the child later learns to 
know the udder of the cow, which in function 
is a breast-nipple, but in shape and in position 
on the abdomen resembles the penis, it obtains 
the primary basis for the later formation of 
that disgusting sexual phantasy. 

We now understand why Leonardo displaced 
the memory of the supposed experience with 
the vulture to his nursing period. This phan- 
tasy conceals nothing more or less than a rem- 
iniscence of nursing — or being nursed — at the 
mother's breast, a scene both human and beau- 
tiful, which he as well as other artists under- 

2Cf. here the "Bruchstiick einer Hysterieanalyse," in Neu- 
rosenlehre, Second series, 1909. 



42 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

took to depict with the brush in the form of the 
mother of God and her child. At all events, 
we also wish to maintain, something we do not 
as yet understand, that this reminiscence, 
equally significant for both sexes, was elabo- 
rated in the man Leonardo into a passive homo- 
sexual phantasy. For the present we shall not 
take up the question as to what connection 
there is between homosexuality and suckling 
at the mother's breast, we merely wish to recall 
that tradition actually designates Leonardo as 
a person of homosexual feelings. In consider- 
ing this, it makes no difference whether that ac- 
cusation against the youth Leonardo was justi- 
fied or not. It is not the real activity but the 
nature of the feeling which causes us to decide 
whether to attribute to some one the character- 
istic of homosexuality. 

Another incomprehensible feature of Leo- 
nardo's infantile phantasy next claims our in- 
terest. We interpret the phantasy of being 
wet-nursed by the mother and find that the 
mother is replaced by a vulture. Where does 
this vulture originate and how does he come 
into this place? 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 43 

A thought now obtrudes itself which seems 
so remote that one is tempted to ignore it. In 
the sacred hieroglyphics of the old Egyptians 
the mother is represented by the picture of the 
vulture.^ These Egyptians also worshiped a 
motherly deity, whose head was vulture like, or 
who had many heads of which at least one or 
two was that of a vulture.^ The name of this 
goddess was pronounced Mut; we may question 
whether the sound similarity to our word 
mother (Mutter) is only accidental? So the 
vulture really has some connection with the 
mother, but of what help is that to us ? Have 
we a right to attribute this knowledge to Leo- 
nardo when Frangois Champollion first suc- 
ceeded in reading hieroglyphics between 1790- 
1832?^ 

It would also be interesting to discover in 
what way the old Egyptians came to choose the 
vulture as a symbol of motherhood. As a mat- 
ter of fact the religion and culture of Egyptians 

SHorapollo: Hieroglyphica I, ll. MT^repa 5e ypa.(povT€^ 
. . . Ti'ira ^wypa^ovffiv, 

*Roscher: Ausf. Lexicon der griechischen und romischen 
Mythologie. Artikel Mut, II Bd., 1894-1897. — Lanzone. 
Dizionario di Mitologia egizia. Torino, 1882. 

5 H. Hartleben, Champollion. Sein Leben und sein Werk, 1906. 



44 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

were subjects of scientific interest even to the 
Greeks and Romans, and long before we our- 
selves were able to read the Egyptian monu- 
ments we had at our disposal some communica- 
tions about them from preserved works of clas- 
sical antiquity. Some of these writings be- 
longed to familiar authors like Strabo, Plu- 
tarch, Aminianus Marcellus, and some bear un- 
familiar names and are uncertain as to origin 
and time, like the hieroglyphica of Horapollo 
Nilus, and like the traditional book of oriental 
priestly wisdom bearing the godly name 
Hermes Trismegistos. From these sources 
we learn that the vulture was a symbol of 
motherhood because it was thought that this 
species of birds had only female vultures and 
no males.^ The natural history of the ancients 
shows a counterpart to this limitation among 
the scarebaeus beetles which were revered by 
the Egyptians as godly, no females were sup- 
posed to existJ 

6 "'^vira 5e appeva ov (f)a(ny€V€adai nrore^ aCKb. 9rj\eias airaaat^* 
cited by v. Romer. Uber die androgynische Idee des Lebens, 
Jahrb. f. Sexuelle Zwischenstufen, V, 1903, p. 732. 

■^ Plutarch : Veluti scarabaeos mares tantum esse piitarunt 
Aegyptii sic inter vultures mares non inveniri statuerunt. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 45 

But how does impregnation take place in vul- 
tures if only females exist? This is fully an- 
swered in a passage of Horapollo.^ At a cer- 
tain time these birds stop in the midst of their 
flight, open their vagina and are impregnated 
by the wind. 

Unexpectedly we have now reached a point 
where we can take something as quite probable 
which only shortly before we had to reject as 
absurd. It is quite possible that Leonardo was 
well acquainted with the scientific fable, ac- 
cording to which the Egyptians represented the 
idea of mother with the picture of the vulture. 
He was an omnivorous reader whose interest 
comprised all spheres of literature and knowl- 
edge. In the Codex Atlanticus we find an in- 
dex of all books which he possessed at a cer- 
tain time,^ as well as numerous notices about 
other books which he borrowed from friends, 
and according to the excerpts which Fr. Rich- 
ter ^^ compiled from his drawings we can 

8 HorapolHnis Niloi Hieroglyphica edidit Conradus Leemans 
Amstelodami, 1835. The words referring to the sex of the 
vulture read as follows (p. 14) : "/^vrepa fiev eweidri Appeu 
€V rovTco yevei tuv fwojy ovx i'Trdpx^*." 

« E. Miintz, 1. c, p. 282. 10 E. Miintz, 1. c. 



46 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

hardly overestimate the extent of his reading. 
Among these books there was no lack of older 
as well as contemporary works treating of nat- 
ural history. All these books were already in 
print at that time, and it so happens that Milan 
was the principal place of the young art of book 
printing in Italy. 

When we proceed further we come upon a 
communication which may raise to a certainty 
the probability that Leonardo knew the vulture 
fable. The erudite editor and commentator of 
Horapollo remarked in connection with the text 
(p. 172) cited before: Caeterum hanc fabulam 
de vulturibus ciipide amplexi sunt Patres Ec- 
clesiasticij ut ita argumento ex rerum natura 
petito refutarent eos, qui Virginis partum nega- 
hant; itaque apud omnes fere hujus ret mentio 
occurit. 

Hence the fable of the monosexuality ana 
the conception of the vulture by no means re- 
mained as an indifferent anecdote as in the case 
of the analogous fable of the scarebseus beetles ; 
that church fathers mastered it in order to have 
it ready as an argument from natural history 
against those who doubted the sacred history. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 47 

If according the best information from antiq- 
uity the vultures were directed to let them- 
selves be impregnated by the wind, why should 
the same thing not have happened even once in 
a human female? On account of this use the 
church fathers were ''almost all" in the habit 
of relating this vulture fable, and now it can 
hardly remain doubtful that it also became 
known to Leonardo through so powerful a 
source. 

The origin of Leonardo's vulture phantasy 
can be conceived in the following manner: 
While reading in the writings of a church 
father or in a book on natural science that the 
vultures are all females and that they know to 
procreate without the cooperation of a male, a 
memory emerged in him which became trans- 
formed into that phantasy, but which meant to 
say that he also had been such a vulture child, 
which had a mother but no father. An echo 
of pleasure which he experienced at his moth- 
er's breast was added to this in the manner as 
so old impressions alone can manifest them- 
selves. The allusion to the idea of the holy 
virgin with the child, formed by the authors, 



48 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

which is so dear to every artist, must have con- 
tributed to it to make this phantasy seem to him 
valuable and important. For this helped him 
to identify himself with the Christ child, the 
comforter and savior of not alone this one 
woman. 

When we break up an infantile phantasy we 
strive to separate the real memory content 
from the later motives which modify and dis- 
tort the same. In the case of Leonardo we 
now think that we know the real content of the 
phantasy. The replacement of the mother by 
the vulture indicates that the child missed the 
father and felt himself alone with his mother. 
The fact of Leonardo's illegitimate birth fits in 
with his vulture phantasy ; only on account of it 
was he able to compare himself with a vulture 
child. But we have discovered as the next 
definite fact from his youth that at the age of 
five years he had already been received in his 
father's home ; when this took place, whether a 
few months following his birth, or a few weeks 
before the taking of the assessment of taxes, is 
entirely unknown to us. The interpretation of 
the vulture phantasy then steps in and wants 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 49 

to tell us that Leonardo did not spend the first 
decisive years of his life with his father and his 
step-mother but with his poor, forsaken, real 
mother, so that he had time to miss his father. 
This still seems to be a rather meager and 
rather daring result of the psychoanalytic ef- 
fort, but on further reflection it will gain in 
significance. Certainty will be promoted by 
mentioning the actual relations in Leonardo's 
childhood. According to the reports, his fa- 
ther Ser Piero da Vinci married the prominent 
Donna Albiera during the year of Leonardo's 
birth; it was to the childlessness of this mar- 
riage that the boy owed his legalized reception 
into his father's or rather grandfather's house 
during his fifth year. However, it is not cus- 
tomary to offer an illegitimate oflfspring to a 
young woman's care at the beginning of mar- 
riage when she is still expecting to be blessed 
with children. Years of disappointment must 
have elapsed before it was decided to adopt the 
probably handsomely developed illegitimate 
child as a compensation for legitimate children 
who were vainly hoped for. It harmonizes 
best with the interpretation of the vulture- 



50 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

phantasy, if at least three years or perhaps five 
years of Leonardo's Hf e had elapsed before he 
changed from his lonely mother to his father's 
home. But then it had already become too 
late. In the first three or four years of life im- 
pressions are fixed and modes of reactions are 
formed towards the outer world which can 
never be robbed of their importance by any 
later experiences. 

If it is true that the incomprehensible child- 
hood reminiscences and the person's phantasies 
based on them always bring out the most sig- 
nificant of his psychic development, then the 
fact corroborated by the vulture phantasy, that 
Leonardo passed the first years of his life alone 
with his mother must have been a most de- 
cisive influence on the formation of his inner 
life. Under the effect of this constellation it 
could not have been otherwise than that the 
child which in his young life encountered one 
problem more than other children, should have 
begun to ponder very passionately over this 
riddle and thus should have become an investi- 
gator early in life. For he was tortured by the 
great questions whe|£.jicLxhildren come from 




LEONARDO DA VINCI 51 

and what has the father to do with their origin. 
The vague knowledge of this connection be- 
tween his investigation and his childhood his- 
tory has later drawn from him the exclama- 
tion that it was destined that he should deeply 
occupy himself with the problem of the bird's 
flight, for already in his cradle he had been 
visited by a vulture. To trace the curiosity 
which is directed to the flight of the bird to the 
infantile sexual investigation will be a later 
task which will not be difficult to accomplish. 



Ill 

The element of the vulture represents to us 
the real memory content in Leonardo's child- 
hood phantasy; the association into which Leo- 
nardo himself placed his phantasy threw a 
bright light on the importance of this content 
for his later life. In continuing the work of 
interpretation we now encounter the strange 
problem why this memory content was elabo- 
rated into a homosexual situation. The 
mother who nursed the child, or rather from 
whom the child suckled was transformed into 
a vulture which stuck its tail into the child's 
mouth. We maintain that the "coda" (tail) 
of the vulture, following the common substitut- 
ing usages of language, cannot signify any- 
thing else but a male genital or penis. But we 
do not understand how the phantastic activity 
came to furnish precisely this maternal bird 

with the mark of masculinity, and in view of 

52 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 53 

this absurdity we become confused at the possi- 
bility of reducing this phantastic structure to 
rational sense. 

However, we must not despair. How many 
seemingly absurd dreams have we not forced 
to give up their sense 1 Why should it become 
more difficult to accomplish this in a childhood 
phantasy than in a dream! 

Let us remember the fact that it is not good 
to find one isolated peculiarity, and let us has- 
ten to add another to it which is still more 
striking. 

The vulture-headed goddess Mut of the 
Egyptians, a figure of altogether impersonal 
character, as expressed by Drexel in Roscher's 
lexicon, was often fused with other maternal 
deities of living individuality like Isis and 
Hathor, but she retained besides her separate 
existence and reverence. It was especially 
characteristic of the Egyptian pantheon that 
the individual gods did not perish in this amal- 
gamation. Besides the composition of deities 
the simple divine image remained in her inde- 
pendence. In most representations the vul- 
ture-headed maternal deity was formed by the 



54 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

Egyptians in a phallic manner/ her body which 
was distinguished as feminine by its breasts 
also bore the masculine member in a state of 
erection. 

The goddess Mut thus evinced the same 
union of maternal and paternal characteristics 
as in Leonardo's vulture phantasy. Should we 
explain this concurrence by the assumption that 
Leonardo knew from studying his book the 
androgynous nature of the maternal vulture? 
Such possibility is more than questionable ; it 
seems that the sources accessible to him con- 
tained nothing of remarkable determination. 
It is more likely that here as there the agree- 
ment is to be traced to a common, effective and 
unknown motive. 

Mythology can teach us that the androgy- 
nous formation, the union of masculine and 
feminine sex characteristics, did not belong to 
the goddess Mut alone but also to other deities 
such as Isis and Hathor, but in the latter per- 
haps only insofar as they possessed also a 
motherly nature and became fused with the 
goddess Mut.^ It teaches us further that 

1 See the illustrations in Lanzone 1. c. T. CXXXVI-VIII. 
2v. Romer 1. c. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 55 

other Egyptian deities such as Neith of Sais 
out of whom the Greek Athene was later 
formed, were originally conceived as androg- 
ynous or dihermaphroditic, and that the same 
held true for many of the Greek gods, espe- 
cially of the Dionysian circle, as well as for 
Aphrodite who was later restricted to a femi- 
nine love deity. Mythology may also offer 
the explanation that the phallus which was 
added to the feminine body was meant to de- 
note the creative primitive force of nature, and 
that all these hermaphroditic deistic forma- 
tions express the idea that only a union of the 
masculine and feminine elements can result in 
a worthy representation of divine perfection. 
But none of these observations explain the 
psychological riddle, namely, that the phan- 
tasy of men takes no offense at the fact that a 
figure which was to embody the essence of the 
mother should be provided with the mark of 
the masculine power which is the opposite of 
motherhood. 

The explanation comes from the infantile 
sexual theories. There really was a time in 
which the male genital was found to be com- 



56 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

patible with the representation of the mother. 
When the male child first directs his curiosity 
to the riddle of the sexual life, he is dominated 
by the interest for his own genitals. He finds 
this part of the body too valuable and too im- 
portant to believe that it would be missing in 
other persons to whom he feels such a resem- 
blance. As he cannot divine that there is still 
another equally valuable type of genital forma- 
tion he must grasp the assumption that all per- 
sons, also women, possess such a member as he. 
This preconception is so firm in the youthful 
investigator that it is not destroyed even by 
the first observation of the genitals in little 
girls. His perception naturally tells him that 
there is something different here than in him, 
but he is unable to admit to himself as the con- 
tent of this perception that he cannot find this 
member in girls. That this member may be 
missing is to him a dismal and unbearable 
thought, and he therefore seeks to reconcile it 
by deciding that it also exists in girls but it 
is still very small and that it will grow later.^ 

3 Cf. the observations in the Jahrbuch fiir Psychoanalytische 
und Psychopathologische Forschungen, Vol. I, 1909. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 57 

If this expectation does not appear to be ful- 
filled on later observation he has at his disposal 
another way of escape. The member also ex- 
isted in the little girl but it was cut off and on 
its place there remained a wound. This prog- 
ress of the theory already makes use of his own 
painful experience; he was threatened in the 
meantime that this important organ will be 
taken away from him if it will form too much 
of an interest for his occupation. Under the 
influence of this threat of castration he now 
interprets his conception of the female genital, 
henceforth he will tremble for his masculinity, 
but at the same time he will look with contempt 
upon those unhappy creatures upon whom, in 
his opinion, this cruel punishment had already 
been visited. 

Before the child came under the domination 
of the castration complex, at the time when he 
still held the woman at her full value, he began 
to manifest an intensive desire to look as an 
erotic activity of his impulse. He wished to 
see the genitals of other persons, originally 
probably because he wished to compare them 
with his own. The erotic attraction which 



58 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

emanated from the person of his mother soon 
reached its height in the longing to see her 
genital which he believed to be a penis. With 
the cognition acquired only later that the 
woman has no penis, this longing often be- 
comes transformed into its opposite and gives 
place to disgust, which in the years of puberty 
may become the cause of psychic impotence, of 
misogyny and of lasting homosexuality. But 
the fixation on the once so vividly desired ob- 
ject, the penis of the woman, leaves inerad- 
icable traces in the psychic life of the child, 
which has gone through that fragment of in- 
fantile sexual investigation with particular 
thoroughness. The fetich-like reverence for 
the feminine foot and shoe seems to take the 
foot only as a substitutive symbol for the once 
revered and since then missed member of the 
woman. The ^'braid-slashers'' without know- 
ing it play the part of persons who perform the 
act of castration on the female genital. 

One will not gain any correct understanding 
of the activities of the infantile sexuality and 
probably will consider these communications 
unworthy of belief, as long as one does not re- 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 59 

linquish the attitude of our cultural deprecia- 
tion of the genitals and of the sexual functions 
in general. To understand the infantile psy- 
chic life one has to look to analogies from 
primitive times. For a long series of genera- 
tions we have been in the habit of considering 
the genitals or pudenda as objects of shame, 
and in the case of more successful sexual re- 
pression as' objects of disgust. The majority 
of those living to-day only reluctantly obey the 
laws of propagation, feeling thereby that their 
human dignity is being offended and degraded. 
What exists among us of the other conception 
of the sexual life is found only in the unculti- 
vated and in the lower social strata; among the 
higher and more refined types it is concealed as 
culturally inferior, and its activity is ventured 
only under the embittered admonition of a 
guilty conscience. It was quite different in 
the primitive times of the human race. From 
the laborious collections of students of civiliza- 
tion one gains the conviction that the genitals 
were originally the pride and hope of living be- 
ings, they enjoyed divine worship, and the 
divine nature of their functions was trans- 



6o LEONARDO DA VINCI 

ported to all newly acquired activities of man- 
kind. Through sublimation of its essential 
elements there arose innumerable god-figures, 
and at the time when the relation of official re- 
ligions with sexual activity was already hidden 
from the general consciousness, secret cults 
labored to preserve it alive among a number of 
the initiated. In the course of cultural devel- 
opment it finally happened that so much godli- 
ness and holiness had been extracted from sex- 
uality that the exhausted remnant fell into con- 
tempt. But considering the indestructibility 
which is in the nature of all psychic impressions 
one need not wonder that even the most prim- 
itive forms of genital worship could be demon- 
strated until quite recent times, and that lan- 
guage, customs and superstitions of present 
day humanity contain the remnants of all 
phases of this course of development."* 

Important biological analogies have taught 
us that the psychic development of the individ- 
ual is a short repetition of the course of devel- 
opment of the race, and we shall therefore not 
find improbable what the psychoanalytic in- 

* Cf . Richard Payne Knight : The Cult of Priapus. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 61 

vestigation of the child's psyche asserts con- 
cerning the infantile estimation of the genitals. 
The infantile assumption of the maternal penis 
is thus the common source of origin for the 
androgynous formation of the maternal dei- 
ties like the Egyptian goddess Mut and the vul- 
ture's ''coda" (tail) in Leonardo's childhood 
phantasy. As a matter of fact, it is only 
through misunderstanding that these deistic 
representations are designated hermaphroditic 
in the medical sense of the word. In none of 
them is there a union of the true genitals of 
both sexes as they are united in some deformed 
beings to the disgust of every human eye; but 
besides the breast as a mark of motherhood 
there is also the male member, just as it ex- 
isted in the first imagination of the child about 
his mother's body. Mythology has retained 
for the faithful this revered and very early 
fancied bodily formation of the mother. The 
prominence given to the vulture-tail in Leo- 
nardo's phantasy we can now translate as fol- 
lows : At that time when I directed my tender 
curiosity to my mother I still adjudged to her a 
genital like my own. A further testimonial 



62 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

of Leonardo's precocious sexual investigation, 
which in our opinion became decisive for his 
entire life. 

A brief reflection now admonishes us that 
we should not be satisfied with the explanation 
of the vulture-tail in Leonardo's childhood 
phantasy. It seems as if it contained more 
than v^e as yet understand. For its more 
striking feature really consisted in the fact that 
the nursing at the mother's breast was trans- 
formed into being nursed, that is into a passive 
act which thus gives the situation an undoubted 
homosexual character. Mindful of the his- 
torical probability that Leonardo behaved in 
life as a homosexual in feeling, the question ob- 
trudes itself whether this phantasy does not 
point to a causal connection between Leonar- 
do's childhood relations to his mother and the 
later manifest, if only ideal, homosexuality. 
iWe would not venture to draw such conclusion 
from Leonardo's disfigured reminiscence were 
it not for the fact that we know from our 
psychoanalytic investigation of homosexual 
patients that such a relation exists, indeed it 
really is an intimate and necessary relation. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 63 

Homosexual men who have started in our 
times an energetic action against the legal 
limitations of their sexual activity are fond of 
representing themselves through theoretical 
spokesmen as evincing a sexual variation, 
which may be distinguished from the very be- 
ginning, as an intermediate stage of sex or as 
''a third sex." In other words, they maintain 
that they are men who are forced by organic 
determinants originating in the germ to find 
that pleasure in the man which they cannot feel 
in the woman. As much as one would wish to 
subscribe to their demands out of humane con- 
siderations, one must nevertheless exercise re- 
serve regarding their theories which were 
formulated without regard for the psychic 
genesis of homosexuality. Psychoanalysis of- 
fers the means to fill this gap and to put to test 
the assertions of the homosexuals. It is true 
that psychoanalysis fulfilled this task in only a 
small number of people, but all investigation 
thus far undertaken brought the same surpris- 
ing results.^ In all our male homosexuals 

5 Prominently among those who undertook these investiga- 
tions are I. Sadger, whose results I can essentially corroborate 



64 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

there was a very intensive erotic attachment to 
a feminine person, as a rule to the mother, 
which was manifest in the very first period of 
childhood and later entirely forgotten by the 
individual. This attachment was produced or 
favored by too much love from the mother her- 
self, but was also furthered by the retirement 
or absence of the father during the childhood 
period. Sadger emphasizes the fact that the 
mothers of his homosexual patients were often 
man-women, or women with energetic traits of 
character who were able to crowd out the 
father from the place allotted to him in the 
family. I have sometimes observed the same 
thing, but I was more impressed by those cases 
in which the father was absent from the be- 
ginning or disappeared early so that the boy 
was altogether under feminine influence. It 
almost seems that the presence of a strong 
father would assure for the son the proper de- 
cision in the selection of his object from the op- 
posite sex. 

from my own experience. I am also aware that Steket of 
Vienna, Ferenczi of Budapest, and Brill of New York, came 
to the same conclusions. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 65 

Following this primary stage, a transfor- 
mation takes place whose mechanisms we know 
but whose motive forces we have not yet 
grasped. The love of the mother cannot con- 
tinue to develop consciously so that it merges 
into repression. The boy represses the love 
for the mother by putting himself in her place, 
by identifying himself with her, and by taking 
his own person as a model through the simi- 
larity of which he is guided in the selection of 
his love object. He thus becomes homosex- 
ual ; as a matter of fact he returns to the stage 
of autoerotism, for the boys whom the grow- 
ing adult now loves are only substitutive per- 
sons or revivals of his own childish person, 
whom he loves in the same way as his mother 
loved him. We say that he finds his love ob- 
ject on the road to narcism, for the Greek 
legend called a boy Narcissus to whom nothing 
was more pleasing than his own mirrored 
image, and who became transformed into a 
beautiful flower of this name. 

Deeper psychological discussions justify the 
assertion that the person who becomes homo- 
sexual in this manner remains fixed in his un- 



66 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

conscious on the memory picture or his mother. 
By repressing the love for his mother he con- 
serves the same in his unconscious and hence- 
forth remains faithful to her. When as a 
lover he seems to pursue boys, he really thus 
runs away from women who could cause him 
to become faithless to his mother. Through 
direct observation of individual cases we could 
demonstrate that he who is seemingly receptive 
only of masculine stimuli is in reality influenced 
by the charms emanating from women just like 
a normal person, but each and every time he 
hastens to transfer the stimulus he received 
from the woman to a male object and in this 
manner he repeats again and again the mechan- 
ism through which he acquired his homosex- 
uality. 

It is far from us to exaggerate the impor- 
tance of these explanations concerning the 
psychic genesis of homosexuality. It is quite 
clear that they are in crass opposition to the 
official theories of the homosexual spokesmen, 
but we are aware that these explanations are 
not sufficiently comprehensive to render pos- 
sible a final explanation of the problem. What 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 67 

one calls homosexual for practical purposes 
may have its origin in a variety of psychosex- 
ual inhibiting processes, and the process recog- 
nized by us is perhaps only one among many, 
and has reference only to one type of "homo- 
sexuality." We must also admit, that the 
number of cases in our homosexual type which 
shows the conditions required by us, exceeds by 
far those cases in which the resulting effect 
really appears, so that even we cannot reject 
the supposed cooperation of unknown consti- 
tutional factors from which one was otherwise 
wont to deduce the whole of homosexuality. 
As a matter of fact there would be no occasion 
for entering into the psychic genesis of the 
form of homosexuality studied by us if there 
were not a strong presumption that Leonardo, 
from whose vulture-phantasy we started, really 
belonged to this one type of homosexuality. 

As little as is known concerning the sexual 
behavior of the great artist and investigator, 
we must still trust to the probability that the 
testimonies of his contemporaries did not go 
far astray. In the light of this tradition he ap- 
pears to us as a man whose sexual need and 



68 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

activity were extraordinarily low, as if a higher 
striving had raised him above the common ani- 
mal need of mankind. It may be open to doubt 
whether he ever sought direct sexual gratifica- 
tion, and in what manner, or whether he could 
dispense with it altogether. We are justified, 
however, to look also in him for those emo- 
tional streams which imperatively force others 
to the sexual act, for we cannot imagine a hu- 
man psychic life in whose development the sex- 
ual desire in the broadest sense, the libido, has 
not "had its share, whether the latter has with- 
drawn itself far from the original aim or 
whether it was detained from being put into 
execution. 

Anything but traces of unchanged sexual de- 
sire we need not expect in Leonardo. These 
point however to one direction and allow us to 
count him among homosexuals. It has always 
been emphasized that he took as his pupils only 
strikingly handsome boys and youths. He 
was kind and considerate towards them, he 
cared for them and nursed them himself when 
they were ill, just like a mother nurses her chil- 
dren, as his own mother might have cared for 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 69 

him. As he selected them on account of their 
beauty rather than their talent, none of them 
< — Cesare da Sesto, G. Boltraffio, Andrea Sa- 
laino, Francesco Melzi and the others — ever 
became a prominent artist. Most of them 
could not make themselves independent of their 
master and disappeared after his death without 
leaving a more definite physiognomy to the his- 
tory of art. The others who by their produc- 
tions earned the right to call themselves his 
pupils, as Luini and Bazzi, nicknamed Sodoma, 
he probably did not know personally. 

We realize that we will have to face the ob- 
jection that Leonardo's behavior towards his 
pupils surely had nothing to do with sexual 
motives, and permits no conclusion as to his 
sexual peculiarity. Against this we wish to 
assert with all caution that our conception ex- 
plains some strange features in the master's be- 
havior which otherwise would have remained 
enigmatical. Leonardo kept a diary; he made 
entries in his small hand, written from right to 
left which were meant only for himself. It is 
to be noted that in this diary he addressed him- 
self with "thou": "Learn from master Lucca 



70 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

the multiplication of roots."® *'Let master 
d'Abacco show thee the square of the circle/' ^ 
Or on the occasion of a journey he entered in 
his diary: 

"I am going to Milan to look after the affairs 
of my garden . . . order two pack-sacks to be 
made. Ask Boltraffio to show thee his turn- 
ing-lathe and let him polish a stone on it. — 
Leave the book to master Andrea il Todesco." ^ 
Or he wrote a resolution of quite different sig- 
nificance: "Thou must show in thy treatise 
that the earth is a star, like the moon or resem- 
bling it, and thus prove the nobility of our 
world." ^ 

In this diary, which like the diaries of other 
mortals often skim over the most important 
events of the day with only few words or ig- 
nore them altogether, one finds a few entries 
which on account of their peculiarity are cited 

^ Edm. Solmi : Leonardo da Vinci, German translation, p. 

152. 

"^ Solmi, 1. c. p. 203. 

8 Leonardo thus behaves like one who was in the habit of 
making a daily confession to another person whom he now 
replaced by his diary. For an assumption as to who this 
person may have been see Merejkowski, p. 309. 

8 M. Herzf eld : Leonardo da Vinci, 1906, p. 141. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 71 

by all of Leonardo's biographers. They show 
notations referring to the master's petty ex- 
penses, which are recorded with painful ex- 
actitude as if coming from a pedantic and 
strictly parsimonious family father, while there 
is nothing to show that he spent greater sums, 
or that the artist was well versed in household 
management. One of these notes refers to a 
new cloak which he bought for his pupil 
Andrea Salaino : ^^ 

Silver brocade Lira 15 Soldi 4 

Crimson velvet for trimming . . " 9 " o 

Braid " o " 9 

Buttons " o " 12 

Another very detailed notice gives all the ex- 
penses which he incurred through the bad qual- 
ities and the thieving tendencies of another 
pupil or model: *^0n 21st day of April, 1490, 
I started this book and started again the 
horse.^^ Jacomo came to me on Magdalene 
day, 1490, at the age of ten years (marginal 
note: thievish, mendacious, willful, glutton- 
ous). On the second day I ordered for him 

10 The wording is that of Merejkowski, 1. c. p. 237. 

11 The equestrian monument of Francesco Sforza. 



72 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

two shirts, a pair of pants, and a jacket, and as 
I put the money away to pay for the things 
named he stole the money from my purse, and 
it was never possible to make him confess, al- 
though I was absolutely sure of it (marginal 
note: 4 Lira ...)." So the report continues 
concerning the misdeeds of the little boy and 
concludes with the expense account: ^^In the 
first year, a cloak. Lira 2: 6 shirts, Lira 4: 3 
jackets. Lira 6: 4 pair of socks. Lira 7, etc." ^^ 
Leonardo's biographers, to whom nothing 
was further than to solve the riddle in the 
psychic life of their hero from these slight 
weaknesses and peculiarities, were wont to re- 
mark in connection with these peculiar accounts 
that they emphasized the kindness and consid- 
eration of the master for his pupils. They for- 
get thereby that it is not Leonardo's behavior 
that needs an explanation, but the fact that he 
left us these testimonies of it. As it is impos- 
sible to ascribe to him the motive of smuggling 
into our hands proofs of his kindness, we must 
assume that another affective motive caused 
him to write this down. It is not easy to con- 

12 The full wording is found in M. Herzf eld, 1. c. p. 45. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 73 

jecture what this motive was, and we could not 
give any if not for another account found 
among Leonardo's papers which throws a bril- 
Hant Hght on these peculiarly petty notices 
about his pupils' clothes, and others of a 
kind:^^ 

Burial expenses following the death of 

Caterina 2y florins 

2 pounds wax 18 " 

Cataphalc .12 " 

For the transportation and erection of 

the cross 4 " 

Pall bearers 8 " 

To 4 priests and 4 clerics .20 " 

Ringing of bells 2 " 

To grave diggers 16 " 

For the approval — ^to the officials i " 



To sum up 108 florins 

Previous expenses: 

To the doctor 4 florins 

For sugar and candles . . 12 " 

16 florins 



Sum total 124 florins 

^® Merejkowski 1. c. — As a disappointing illustration of the 
vagueness of the information concerning Leonardo's intimate 



74 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

The writer Merejkowski is the only one who 
can tell us who this Caterina was. From two 
different short notices he concludes that she 
was the mother of Leonardo, the poor peasant 
woman from Vinci, who came to Milan in 
1493 to visit her son then 41 years old. While 
on this visit she fell ill and was taken to the 
hospital by Leonardo, and following her death 
she was buried by her son with such sumptuous 
funeral.^* 

This deduction of the psychological writer of 
romances is not capable of proof, but it can lay 
claim to so many inner probabilities, it agrees 
so well with everything we know besides about 
Leonardo's emotional activity that I cannot re- 
frain from accepting it as correct. Leonardo 
succeeded in forcing his feelings under the yoke 

life, meager as it is, I mention the fact that the same expense 
account is given by Solmi with considerable variation (German 
translation, p. 104). The most serious difference is the substi- 
tution of florins by soldi. One may assume that in this ac- 
count florins do not mean the old "gold florins," but those used 
at a later period which amounted to i^^ lira or 33^^ soldi. — 
Solmi represents Caterina as a servant who had taken care of 
Leonardo's household for a certain time. The source from 
which the two representations of this accoimt were taken was 
not accessible to me. 
1* "Caterina came in July, I493-" 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 75 

o£ investigation and in inhibiting their free ut- 
terance, but even in him there were episodes in 
which the suppression obtained expression, and 
one of these was the death of his mother whom 
he once loved so ardently. Through this ac- 
count of the burial expenses he represents to us 
the mourning of his mother in an almost un- 
recognizable distortion. We wonder how such 
a distortion could have come about, and we cer- 
tainly cannot grasp it when viewed under nor- 
mal mental processes. But similar mecha- 
nisms are familiar to us under the abnormal 
conditions of neuroses, and especially in the so- 
called compulsion neurosis. Here one can ob- 
serve how the expressions of more intensive 
feelings have been displaced to trivial and even 
foolish performances. The opposing forces 
succeeded in debasing the expression of these 
repressed feelings to such an extent that one is 
forced to estimate the intensity of these feel- 
ings as extremely unimportant, but the impera- 
tive compulsion with which these insignificant 
acts express themselves betrays the real force 
of the feelings which are rooted in the uncon- 
scious, which consciousness would wish to dis- 



76 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

avow. Only by bearing in mind the mecha- 
nisms of compulsion neurosis can one explain 
Leonardo's account of the funeral expenses of 
his mother. In his unconscious he was still 
tied to her as in childhood, by erotically tinged 
feelings; the opposition of the repression of 
this childhood love which appeared later stood 
in the way of erecting to her in his diary a 
different and more dignified monument, but 
what resulted as a compromise of this neurotic 
conflict had to be put in operation and hence 
the account was entered in the diary which thus 
came to the knowledge of posterity as some- 
thing incomprehensible. 

It is not venturing far to transfer the in- 
terpretation obtained from the funeral ex- 
penses to the accounts dealing with his pupils. 
Accordingly we would say that here also we 
deal with a case in which Leonardo's meager 
remnants of libidinous feelings compulsively 
obtained a distorted expression. The mother 
and the pupils, the very images of his own boy- 
ish beauty, would be his sexual objects — as far 
as his sexual repression dominating his nature 
would allow such manifestations — and the 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 77 

compulsion to note with painful circumstantial- 
ity his expenses on their behalf, would desig- 
nate the strange betrayal of his rudimentary 
conflicts. From this we would conclude that 
Leonardo's love-life really belonged to that 
type of homosexuality, the psychic development 
of which we were able to disclose, and the ap- 
pearance of the homosexual situation in his 
vulture-phantasy would become comprehen- 
sible to us, for it states nothing more or less 
than what we have asserted before concerning 
that type. It requires the following interpre- 
tation: Through the erotic relations to my 
mother I became a homosexual.^^ 

15 The manner of expression through which the repressed 
libidio could manifest itself in Leonardo, such as circum- 
stantiality and marked interest in money, belongs to those 
traits of character which emanate from anal eroticism. Cf. 
Character und Analerotik in the second series of my Samm- 
lung zur Neurosenlehre, 1909, also Brill's Psychoanalysis, its 
Theories and Practical Applications, Chap. XIII, Anal Eroti- 
cism and Character, Saunders, Philadelphia. 



IV 

The vulture phantasy of Leonardo still ab- 
sorbs our interest. In words which only too 
plainly recall a sexual act (''and has many 
times struck against my lips with his tail"), 
Leonardo emphasizes the intensity of the erotic 
relations between the mother and the child. A 
second memory content of the phantasy can 
readily be conjectured from the association of 
the activity of the mother (of the vulture) with 
the accentuation of the mouth zone. We can 
translate it as follows: My mother has 
pressed on my mouth innumerable passionate 
kisses. The phantasy is composed of the 
memories of being nursed and of being kissed 
by the mother. 

A kindly nature has bestowed upon the artist 

the capacity to express in artistic productions 

his most secret psychic feelings hidden even to 

himself, which powerfully affect outsiders who 

78 





MONA LISA 



^8?i^ 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 79 

are strangers to the artist without their being 
able to state whence this emotivity comes. 
Should there be no evidence in Leonardo's work 
of that which his memory retained as the 
strongest impression of his childhood? One 
would have to expect it. However, when one 
considers what profound transformations an 
impression of an artist has to experience before 
it can add its contribution to the work of art, 
one is obliged to moderate considerably his ex- 
pectation of demonstrating something definite. 
This is especially true in the case of Leonardo. 
He who thinks of Leonardo's paintings will 
be reminded by the remarkably fascinating and 
puzzling smile which he enchanted on the lips 
of all his feminine figures. It is a fixed smile 
on elongated, sinuous lips which is considered 
characteristic of him and is preferentially des- 
ignated as 'Teonardesque." In the singular 
and beautiful visage of the Florentine Monna 
Lisa del Giocondo it has produced the greatest 
effect on the spectators and even perplexed 
them. This smile was in need of an interpre- 
tation, and received many of the most varied 
kind but none of them was considered satis- 



8o LEONARDO DA VINCI 

factory. As Gruyer puts it: "It is almost 
four centuries since Monna Lisa causes all 
those to lose their heads who have looked upon 
her for some time/' ^ 

Muther states : ^ "What fascinates the 
spectator is the demoniacal charm of this smile. 
Hundreds of poets and writers have written 
about this woman, who now seems to smile 
upon us seductively and now to stare coldly 
and lifelessly into space, but nobody has solved 
the riddle of her smile, nobody has interpreted 
her thoughts. Everything, even the scenery is 
mysterious and dream-like, trembling as if in 
the sultriness of sensuality." 

The idea that two diverse elements were 
united in the smile of Monna Lisa has been felt 
by many critics. They therefore recognize in 
the play of features of the beautiful Floren- 
tine lady the most perfect representation of the 
contrasts dominating the love-life of the 
woman which is foreign to man, as that of re- 
serve and seduction, and of most devoted ten- 
derness and inconsiderateness in urgent and 

1 Seidlitz : Leonardo da Vinci, II Bd., p. 280. 

2 Geschichte der Malerei, Bd. I, p, 314. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 81 

consuming sensuality. Miintz ^ expresses him- 
self in this manner : "One knows what inde- 
cipherable and fascinating enigma Monna Lisa 
Gioconda has been putting for nearly four cen- 
turies to the admirers who crowd around her. 
No artist (I borrow the expression of the deli- 
cate writer who hides himself under the pseu- 
donym of Pierre de Corlay) has ever trans- 
lated in this manner the very essence of 
femininity: the tenderness and coquetry, the 
modesty and quiet voluptuousness, the whole 
mystery of the heart which holds itself aloof, 
of a brain which reflects, and of a personality 
who watches itself and yields nothing from her- 
self except radiance. . . J' The Italian xAn- 
gelo Conti * saw the picture in the Louvre il- 
lumined by a ray of the sun and expressed him- 
self as follows: *^The woman smiled with a 
royal calmness, her instincts of conquest, of 
ferocity, the entire heredity of the species, the 
will of seduction and ensnaring, the charm of 
the deceiver, the kindness which conceals a 

s 1, c. p. 417. 

*A. Conti: Leonardo pittore, Conferenze Florentine, 1. c. 
p. 93- 



82 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

cruel purpose, all that appears and disappears 
alternately behind the laughing yeil and melts 
into the poem o£ her smile. . . . Good and 
evil, cruelty and compassion, graceful and cat- 
like, she laughed. . . /' 

Leonardo painted this picture four years, 
perhaps from 1503 until 1507, during his sec- 
ond sojourn in Florence when he was about the 
age of fifty years. According to Vasari he ap- 
plied the choicest artifices in order to divert the 
lady during the sittings and to hold that smile 
firmly on her features. Of all the graceful- 
ness that his brush reproduced on the canvas 
at that time the picture preserves but very lit- 
tle in its present state. During its production 
it was considered the highest that art could 
accomplish; it is certain, however, that it did 
not satisfy Leonardo himself, that he pro- 
nounced it as unfinished and did not deliver it 
to the one who ordered it, but took it with him 
to France where his benefactor Francis I, ac- 
quired it for the Louvre. 

Let us leave the physiognomic riddle of 
Monna Lisa unsolved, and let us note the un- 
equivocal fact that her smile fascinated the art- 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 83 

1st no less than all the spectators for these 400 
years. This captivating smile had thereafter 
returned in all of his pictures and in those of 
his pupils. As Leonardo's Monna Lisa was a 
portrait we cannot assume that he has added 
to her face a trait of his own so difficult to ex- 
press which she herself did not possess. It 
seems, we cannot help but believe, that he found 
this smile in his model and became so charmed 
by it that from now on he endowed it on all 
the free creations of his phantasy. This ob- 
vious conception is, e.g., expressed by A. Kon- 
stantinowa in the following manner : ^ 

'^During the long period in which the master 
occupied himself with the portrait of Monna 
Lisa del Gioconda, he entered into the physi- 
ognomic delicacies of this feminine face with 
such sympathy of feeling that he transferred 
these creatures, especially the mysterious smile 
and the peculiar glance, to all faces which he 
later painted or drew. The mimic peculiarity 
of Gioconda can even be perceived in the pic- 
ture of John the Baptist in the Louvre. But 
above all they are distinctly recognized in the 

U c. p. 45. 



84 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

features of Mary in the picture of St. Anne of 
the Louvre/' 

But the case could have been different. The 
need for a deeper reason for the fascination 
which the smile of Gioconda exerted on the 
artist from which he could not rid himself has 
been felt by more than one of his biographers. 
W. Pater, who sees in the picture of Monna 
Lisa the embodiment of the entire erotic ex- 
perience of modern man, and discourses so ex- 
cellently on '^that unfathomable smile always 
with a touch of something sinister in it, which 
plays over all Leonardo's work," leads us to 
another track when he says : ® 

''Besides, the picture is a portrait. From 
childhood we see this image defining itself on 
the fabric of his dream; and but for express 
historical testimony, we might fancy that this 
was but his ideal lady, embodied and beheld at 
last." 

Herzfeld surely must have had something 
similar in mind when stating that in Monna 
Lisa Leonardo encountered himself and there- 

6W. Pater: The Renaissance, p. 124, The Macmillan Co., 
1910. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 85 

fore found it possible to put so much of his own 
nature into the picture, "whose features from 
time immemorial have been imbedded with 
mysterious sympathy in Leonardo's soul." '^ 

Let us endeavor to clear up these intimations. 
It was quite possible that Leonardo was fasci- 
nated by the smile of Monna Lisa, because it 
had awakened something in him which had 
slumbered in his soul for a long time, in all 
probability an old memory. This memory was 
of sufficient importance to stick to him once it 
had been aroused ; he was forced continually to 
provide it with new expression. The assur- 
ance of Pater that we can see an image like that 
of Monna Lisa defining itself from Leonardo's 
childhood on the fabric of his dreams, seems 
worthy of belief and deserves to be taken liter- 
ally. 

Vasari mentions as Leonardo's first artistic 
endeavors, ''heads of women who laugh." ® 
The passage, which is beyond suspicion, as it 
is not meant to prove anything, reads more pre- 
cisely as follows : ^ ''He formed in his youth 

7 M. Herzf eld : Leonardo da Vinci, p. 88. 

8 Scognamiglio, 1. c. p. 32. 

»L. Schorn, Bd. Ill, 1843, p. 6. 



86 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

some laughing feminine heads out of lime, 
which have been reproduced in plaster, and 
some heads of children, which were as beauti- 
ful as if modeled by the hands of a mas- 
ter. . . :' 

Thus we discover that his practice of art be- 
gan with the representation of two kinds of ob- 
jects, which would perforce remind us of the 
two kinds of sexual objects which we have in- 
ferred from the analysis of his vulture phan- 
tasy. If the beautiful children's heads were 
reproductions of his own childish person, then 
the laughing women were nothing else but re- 
productions of Caterina, his mother, and we 
are beginning to have an inkling of the possi- 
bility that his mother possessed that mysteri- 
ous smile which he lost, and which fascinated 
him so much when he found it again in the 
Florentine lady.^^ 

The painting of Leonardo which in point 
of time stands nearest to the Monna Lisa is 

10 The same is assumed by Merejkowski, who imagined a 
childhood for Leonardo which deviates in the essential points 
from ours, drawn from the results of the vulture phantasy. 
But if Leonardo himself had displayed this smile, tradition 
hardly would have failed to report to us this coincidence. 





SAINT ANNE 




LEONARDO DA VINCI 87 

the so-called Saint Anne of the Louvre, repre- 
senting Saint Anne, Mary and the Christ child. 
It shows the Leonardesque smile most beauti- 
fully portrayed in the two feminine heads. It 
is impossible to find out how much earlier or 
later than the portrait of Monna Lisa Leo- 
nardo began to paint this picture. As both 
works extended over years, we may well as- 
sume that they occupied the master simultane- 
ously. But it would best harmonize with our 
expectation if precisely the absorption in the 
features of Monna Lisa would have instigated 
Leonardo to form the composition of Saint 
Anne from his phantasy. For if the smile of 
Gioconda had conjured up in him the memory 
of his mother, we would naturally understand 
that he was first urged to produce a glorifica- 
tion of motherhood, and to give back to her the 
smile he found in that prominent lady. We 
may thus allow our interest to glide over from 
the portrait of Monna Lisa to this other hardly 
less beautiful picture, now also in the Louvre. 
Saint Anne with the daughter and grand- 
child is a subject seldom treated in the Italian 
art of painting; at all events Leonardo's rep- 



88 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

resentation differs widely from all that is oth- 
erwise known. Muther states: ^^ 

*'Some masters like Hans Fries, the older 
Holbein, and Girolamo dei Libri, made Anne 
sit near Mary and placed the child between the 
two. Others like Jakob Cornelicz in his Ber- 
lin pictures, represented Saint Anne as holding 
in her arm the small figure of Mary upon which 
sits the still smaller figure of the Christ child." 
In Leonardo's picture Mary sits on her moth- 
er's lap, bent forward and is stretching out both 
arms after the boy who plays with a little 
lamb, and must have slightly maltreated it. 
The grandmother has one of her unconcealed 
arms propped on her hip and looks down on 
both with a blissful smile. The grouping is 
certainly not quite unconstrained. But the 
smile which is playing on the lips of both 
women, although unmistakably the same as in 
the picture of Monna Lisa, has lost its sinister 
and mysterious character; it expresses a calm 
blissfulness.^^ 

11 1. c. p. 309. 

12 A. Konstantiriowa, 1. c, says : " Mary looks tenderly 
down on her beloved child with a smile that recalls the mys- 
terious expression of la Gioconda." Elsewhere speaking of 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 89 

On becoming somewhat engrossed in this 
picture it suddenly dawns upon the spectator 
that only Leonardo could have painted this pic- 
ture, as only he could have formed the vulture 
phantasy. This picture contains the synthesis 
of the history of Leonardo's childhood, the de- 
tails of which are explainable by the most inti- 
mate impressions of his life. In his father's 
home he found not only the kind step-mother 
Donna Albiera, but also the grandmother, his 
father's mother, Monna Lucia, who we will as- 
sume was not less tender to him than grand- 
mothers are wont to be. This circumstance 
must have furnished him with the facts for the 
representation of a childhood guarded by a 
mother and grandmother. Another striking 
feature of the picture assumes still greater sig- 
nificance. Saint Anne, the mother of Mary 
and the grandmother of the boy who must have 
been a matron, is formed here perhaps some- 
what more mature and more serious than Saint 
Mary, but still as a young woman of unfaded 
beauty. As a matter of fact Leonardo gave 

Mary she says : "The smile of Gioconda floats upon her 
features." 



90 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

the boy two mothers, the one who stretched out 
her arms after him and another who is seen in 
the background, both are represented with the 
blissful smile of maternal happiness. This 
pecuHarity of the picture has not failed to ex- 
cite the wonder of the authors. Muther, for 
instance, believes that Leonardo could not 
bring himself to paint old age, folds and 
wrinkles, and therefore formed also Anne as a 
woman of radiant beauty. Whether one can 
be satisfied with this explanation is a question. 
Other writers have taken occasion to deny gen- 
erally the sameness of age of mother and 
daughter.^^ However, Muther's tentative ex- 
planation is sufficient proof for the fact that 
the impression of Saint Anne's youthful ap- 
pearance was furnished by the picture and is 
not an imagination produced by a tendency. 

Leonardo's childhood was precisely as re- 
markable as this picture. He has had two 
mothers, the first his true mother, Caterina, 
from whom he was torn away between the age 
of three and five years, and a young tender 
step-mother. Donna Albiera, his father's wife. 

13 Cf. V. Seidlitz, 1. c. Bd. II, p. 274. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 91 

By connecting this fact of his childhood with 
the one mentioned above and condensing them 
into a uniform fusion, the composition of Saint 
Anne, Mary and the Child, formed itself in him. 
The maternal form further away from the boy 
designated as grandmother, corresponds in ap- 
pearance and in spatial relation to the boy, with 
the real first mother, Caterina. With the bliss- 
ful smile of Saint Anne the artist actually dis- 
avowed and concealed the envy which the un- 
fortunate mother felt when she was forced to 
give up her son to her more aristocratic rival, 
as once before her lover. 

Our feeling that the smile of Monna Lisa 
del Gioconda awakened in the man the memory 
of the mother of his first years of childhood 
would thus be confirmed from another work 
of Leonardo. Following the production of 
Monna Lisa, Italian artists depicted in Ma- 
donnas and prominent ladies the humble dip- 
ping of the head and the peculiar blissful smile 
of the poor peasant girl Caterina, who brought 
to the world the noble son who was destined to 
paint, investigate, and suffer. 

When Leonardo succeeded in reproducing in 



92 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

the face of Monna Lisa the double sense com- 
prised in this smile, namely, the promise of 
unlimited tenderness, and sinister threat (in the 
words of Pater), he remained true even in this 
to the content of his earliest reminiscence. 
For the love of the mother became his destiny, 
it determined his fate and the privations which 
were in store for him. The impetuosity of the 
caressing to which the vulture phantasy points 
was only too natural. The poor forsaken 
mother had to give vent through mother's love 
to all her memories of love enjoyed as well as 
to all her yearnings for more affection ; she was 
forced to it, not only in order to compensate 
herself for not having a husband, but also the 
child for not having a father who wanted to 
love it. In the manner of all ungratified 
mothers she thus took her little son in place 
of her husband, and robbed him of a part of 
his virility by the too early maturing of his 
eroticism. The love of the mother for the 
suckling whom she nourishes and cares for is 
something far deeper reaching than her later 
affection for the growing child. It is of the 
nature of a fully gratified love affair, which 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 93 

fulfills not only all the psychic wishes but also 
all physical needs, and when it represents one 
of the forms of happiness attainable by man it 
is due, in no little measure, to the possibility of 
gratifying without reproach also wish feelings 
which were long repressed and designated as 
perverse.^^ Even in the happiest recent mar- 
riage the father feels that his child, especially 
the little boy has become his rival, and this 
gives origin to an antagonism against the fa- 
vorite one which is deeply rooted in the uncon- 
scious. 

When in the prime of his life Leonardo re- 
encountered that blissful and ecstatic smile as 
it had once encircled his mother's mouth in 
caressing, he had long been under the ban of 
an inhibition, forbidding him ever again to 
desire such tenderness from women's lips. 
But as he had become a painter he endeavored 
to reproduce this smile with his brush and fur- 
nish all his pictures with it, whether he exe- 
cuted them himself or whether they were done 
by his pupils under his direction, as in Leda, 

1* Cf . Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, translated 
by A. A. Brill, 2nd edition, 1916, Monograph series. 



94 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

John, and Bacchus. The latter two are va- 
riations of the same type. Muther says: 
*Trom the locust eater of the Bible Leonardo 
made a Bacchus, an Apollo, who with a mys- 
terious smile on his lips, and with his soft 
thighs crossed, looks on us with infatuated 
eyes." These pictures breathe a mysticism 
into the secret of which one dares not pene- 
trate; at most one can make the effort to con- 
struct the connection to Leonardo's earlier 
productions. The figures are again androgy- 
nous but no longer in the sense of the vulture 
phantasy, they are pretty boys of feminine ten- 
derness with feminine forms ; they do not cast 
down their eyes but gaze mysteriously tri- 
umphant, as if they knew of a great happy 
issue concerning which one must remain quiet ; 
the familiar fascinating smile leads us to infer 
that it is a love secret. It is possible that in 
these forms Leonardo disavowed and artisti- 
cally conquered the unhappiness of his love 
life, in that he represented the wish fulfillment 
of the boy infatuated with his mother in such 
blissful union of the male and female nature. 





JOHN THE BAPTIST 




V 

Among the entries in Leonardo's diaries 
there is one which absorbs the reader's atten- 
tion through its important content and on ac- 
count of a small formal error. In July, 1504, 
he wrote : 

"Adi 9 Luglio, 1504, mercoledi, a ore 7 mori 
Ser Piero da Vinci notalio al palazzo del Po- 
testa, mio padre, a ore 7. Era d'eta d'anni 80, 
lascio 10 figlioli maschi e 2 feminine." ^ 

The notice as we see deals with the death of 
Leonardo's father. The slight error in its 
form consists in the fact that in the computa- 
tion of the time "at 7 o'clock" is repeated two 
times, as if Leonardo had forgotten at the end 
of the sentence that he had already written it 
at the beginning. It is only a triviality to 

1 "On the 9th of July, 1504, Wednesday at 7 o'clock died Ser 
Piero da Vinci, notary at the palace of the Podesta, my father, 
at 7 o'clock. He was 80 years old, left 10 sons and 2 daugh- 
ters." (E. Miintz, 1. c. p. 13.) 

95 



96 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

which any one but a psychoanalyst would pay 
no attention. Perhaps he would not even no- 
tice it, or if his attention would be called to it 
he would say "that can happen to anybody dur- 
ing absent-mindedness or in an affective state 
and has no further meaning." 

The psychoanalyst thinks differently ; to him 
nothing is too trifling as a manifestation of hid- 
den psychic processes ; he has long learned that 
such forgetting or repetition is full of mean- 
ing, and that one is indebted to the "absent- 
mindedness" when it makes possible the be- 
trayal of otherwise concealed feelings. 

We would say that, like the funeral account 
of Caterina and the expense account of the 
pupils, this notice, too, corresponds to a case in 
which Leonardo was unsuccessful in suppress- 
ing his affects, and the long hidden feeling 
forcibly obtained a distorted expression. Also 
the form is similar, it shows the same pedantic 
precision, the same pushing forward of num- 
bers.^ 

We call such a repetition a perseveration. 

2 I shall overlook a greater error committed by Leonardo in 
his notice in that he gives his 77-year-old father 80 years. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 97 

It is an excellent means to indicate the affective 
accentuation. One recalls for example Saint 
Peter's angry speech against his unworthy rep- 
resentative on earth, as given in Dante's Para- 
diso : ^ 

"Quegli ch'usurpa in terra il luoga mio 
II luoga mio, il luogo mio, che vaca 
Nella presenza del Figliuol di Dio, 
Fatto ha del cimiterio mio cloaca." 

Without Leonardo's affective inhibition the 
entry into the diary could perhaps have read as 
follows: To-day at 7 o'clock died my father, 
Ser Piero da Vinci, my poor father ! But the 
displacement of the perseveration to the most 
indifferent determination of the obituary to 
dying-hour robs the notice of all pathos and lets 
us recognize that there was something here to 
conceal and to suppress. 

Ser Piero da Vinci, notary and descendant 
of notaries, was a man of great energy who at- 
tained respect and affluence. He was married 
four times, the two first wives died childless, 

3 "He who usurps on earth my place, my place, my place, 
which is void in the presence of the Son of God, has made out 
of my cemetery a sewer." Canto XXXVII. 



98 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

and not till the third marriage has he gotten 
the first legitimate son, in 1476, when Leonardo 
was 24 years old, and had long ago changed 
his father's home for the studio of his master 
Verrocchio. With the fourth and last wife 
whom he married when he was already in the 
fifties he begot nine sons and two daughters.* 
To be sure the father also assumed impor- 
tance in Leonardo's psychosexual development, 
and what is more, it was not only in a negative 
sense, through his absence during the boy's first 
childhood years, but also directly through his 
presence in his later childhood. He who as a 
child desires his mother, cannot help wishing to 
put himself in his father's place, to identify 
himself with him in his phantasy and later 
make it his life's task to triumph over him. 
As Leonardo was not yet five years old when 
he was received into his paternal home, the 
young step-mother, Albiera, certainly must 
have taken the place of his mother in his feel- 
ing, and this brought him into that relation of 

■*!! seems that in that passage of the diary Leonardo also 
erred in the number of his sisters and brothers, which stands 
in remarkable contrast to the apparent exactness of the same. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 99 

rivalry to his father which may be designated 
as normal. As is known, the preference for 
homosexuality did not manifest itself till near 
the years of puberty. When Leonardo ac- 
cepted this preference the identification with 
the father lost all significance for his sexual 
life, but continued in other spheres of non- 
erotic activity. We hear that he was fond of 
luxury and pretty raiments, and kept servants 
and horses, although according to Vasari's 
words "he hardly possessed anything and 
worked little." We shall not hold his artistic 
taste entirely responsible for all these special 
likings ; we recognize in them also the compul- 
sion to copy his father and to excel him. He 
played the part of the great gentleman to the 
poor peasant girl, hence the son retained the 
incentive that he also play the great gentleman, 
he had the strong feeling "to out-herod 
Herod," and to show his father exactly how 
the real high rank looks. 

Whoever works as an artist certainly feels 
as a father to his works. The identification 
with his father had a fateful result in Leo- 
nardo's works of art. He created them and 



loo LEONARDO DA VINCI 

then troubled himself no longer about them, 
just as his father did not trouble himself 
about him. The later worriments of his father 
could change nothing in this compulsion, as the 
latter originated from the impressions of the 
first years of childhood, and the repression 
having remained unconscious was incorrigible 
through later experiences. 

At the time of the Renaissance, and even 
much later, every artist was in need of a gen- 
tleman of rank to act as his benefactor. This 
patron was wont to give the artist commissions 
for work and entirely controlled his destiny. 
Leonardo found his patron in Lodovico Sf orza, 
nicknamed II Moro, a man of high aspirations, 
ostentations, diplomatically astute, but of an 
unstable and unreliable character. In his 
court in Milan, Leonardo spent the best period 
of his life, while in his service he evinced his 
most uninhibited productive activity as is evi- 
denced in The Last Supper, and in the eques- 
trian statue of Francesco Sforza. He left 
Milan before the catastrophe struck Lodovico 
Moro, who died a prisoner in a French prison. 
When the news of his benefactor's fate reached 



LEONARDO DA VINCI loi 

Leonardo he made the following entry in his 
diary: "The duke has lost state, wealth, and 
liberty, not one of his works will be finished by 
himself/' ^ It is remarkable and surely not 
without significance that he here raises the 
same reproach to his benefactor that posterity 
was to apply to him, as if he wanted to lay the 
responsibility to a person who substituted his 
father-series, for the fact that he himself left 
his works unfinished. As a matter of fact he 
was not wrong in what he said about the Duke. 
However, if the imitation of his father hurt 
him as an artist, his resistance against the 
father was the infantile determinant of his per- 
haps equally vast accomplishment as an artist. 
According to Merejkowski's beautiful compari- 
son he was like a man who awoke too early in 
the darkness, while the others were all still 
asleep. He dared utter this bold principle 
which contains the justification for all inde- 
pendent investigation : ''Chi disputa allegando 
I'autorita non adopra ringegno ma piuttosto la 
memoria'' (Whoever refers to authorities in 
disputing ideas, works with his memory rather 

5 V. Seidlitz, 1. c, II, p. 270. 



102 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

than with his reason).^ Thus he became the 
first modern natural philosopher, and his cour- 
age was rewarded by an abundance of cogni- 
tions and suggestions; since the Greek period 
he was the first to investigate the secrets of na- 
ture, relying entirely on his observation and his 
own judgment. But when he learned to de- 
preciate authority and to reject the imitation 
of the ^'ancients" and constantly pointed to the 
study of nature as the source of all wisdom, he 
only repeated in the highest sublimation at- 
tainable to man, which had already obtruded 
itself on the little boy who surveyed the world 
with wonder. To retranslate the scientific ab- 
stractions into concrete individual experiences, 
we would say that the ^^ancients'' and authority 
only corresponded to the father, and nature 
again became the tender mother who nourished 
him. While in most human beings to-day, as 
in primitive times, the need for a support of 
some authority is so imperative that their world 
becomes shaky when their authority is men- 
aced, Leonardo alone was able to exist without 
such support; but that would not have been 

® Solmi, Conf. fior, p. 13. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 103 

possible had he not been deprived of his fa- 
ther in the first years of his life. The bold- 
ness and independence of his later scientific 
investigation presupposes that his infantile sex- 
ual investigation was not inhibited by his fa- 
ther, and this same spirit of scientific independ- 
ence was continued by his withdrawing from 
sex. 

If any one like Leonardo escapes in his child- 
hood his father's intimidation and later throws 
off the shackles of authority in his scientific in- 
vestigation, it would be in gross contradiction 
to our expectation if we found that this same 
man remained a believer and unable to with- 
draw from dogmatic religion. Psychoanalysis 
has taught us the intimate connection between 
the father complex and belief in God, and daily 
demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose 
their religious belief as soon as the authority of 
the father breaks down. In the parental com- 
plex we thus recognize the roots of religious 
need ; the almighty, just God, and kindly nature 
appear to us as grand sublimations of father 
and mother, or rather as revivals and restora- 
tions of the infantile conceptions of both par- 



104 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

ents. Religiousness is biologically traced to 
the long period of helplessness and need of help 
of the little child. When the child grows up 
and realizes his loneliness and weakness in the 
presence of the great forces of life, he perceives 
his condition as in childhood and seeks to dis- 
avow his despair through a regressive revival 
of the protecting forces of childhood. 

It does not seem that Leonardo's life dis- 
proves this conception of religious belief. Ac- 
cusations charging him with irreligiousness, 
which in those times was equivalent to re- 
nouncing Christianity, were brought against 
him already in his lifetime, and were clearly 
described in the first biography given by Va- 
sari."^ In the second edition of his Vite (1568) 
Vasari left out this observation. In view of 
the extraordinary sensitiveness of his age in 
matters of religion it is perfectly comprehen- 
sible to us why Leonardo refrained from di- 
rectly expressing his position to Christianity 
in his notes. As investigator he did not per- 
mit himself to be misled by the account of the 
creation of the holy scriptures; for instance, 

7 Miintz, 1. c, La Religion de Leonardo, p. 292, etc. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 105 

he disputed the possibility of a universal flood, 
and in geology he was as unscrupulous in cal- 
culating with hundred thousands of years as 
modern investigators. 

Among his "prophecies" one finds some 
things that would perforce offend the sensi- 
tive feelings of a religious Christian, e.g. 
Praying to the images of Saints, reads as fol- 
lows : ^ 

"People talk to people who perceive nothing, 
who have open eyes and see nothing ; they shall 
talk to them and receive no answer ; they shall 
adore those who have ears and hear nothing; 
they shall burn lamps for those who do not 
see." 

Or : Concerning mourning on Good Friday 
(p. 297) : 

"In all parts of Europe great peoples will be- 
wail the death of one man who died in the 
Orient." 

It was asserted of Leonardo's art that he 
took away the last remnant of religious attach- 
ment from the holy figures and put them into 
human form in order to depict in them great 

8 Herzf eld, p. 29^. 



io6 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

and beautiful human feelings. Muther praises 
him for having overcome the feeling of deca- 
dence, and for having returned to man the right 
of sensuality and pleasurable enjoyment. The 
notices which show Leonardo absorbed in 
fathoming the great riddles of nature do not 
lack any expressions of admiration for the 
creator, the last cause of all these wonderful 
secrets, but nothing indicates that he wished 
to hold any personal relation to this divine 
force. The sentences which contain the deep 
wisdom of his last years breathe the resigna- 
tion of the man who subjects himself to the 
laws of nature and expects no alleviation from 
the kindness or grace of God. There is hardly 
any doubt that Leonardo had vanquished dog- 
matic as well as personal religion, and through 
his work of investigation he had withdrawn far 
from the world aspect of the religious Chris- 
tian. 

From our views mentioned before in the de- 
velopment of the infantile psychic life, it be- 
comes clear that also Leonardo's first inves- 
tigations in childhood occupied themselves 
with the problems of sexuality. But he him- 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 107 

self betrays it to us through a transparent 
veil, in that he connects his impulse to investi- 
gate with the vulture phantasy, and in empha- 
sizing the problem of the flight of the bird as 
one whose elaboration devolved upon him 
through special concatenations of fate. A 
very obscure as well as a prophetically sound- 
ing passage in his notes dealing with the flight 
of the bird demonstrates in the nicest way with 
how much affective interest he clung to the 
wish that he himself should be able to imitate 
the art of flying: 'The human bird shall take 
his first flight, filling the world with amaze- 
ment, all writings with his fame, and bringing 
eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang." 
He probably hoped that he himself would 
sometimes be able to fly, and we know from 
the wish fulfilling dreams of people what bliss 
one expects from the fulfillment of this hope. 
But why do so many people dream that they 
are able to fly? Psychoanalysis answers this 
question by stating that to fly or to be a bird 
in the dream is only a concealment of another 
wish, to the recognition of which one can reach 
by more than one linguistic or objective bridge. 



io8 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

When the inquisitive child is told that a big 
bird like the stork brings the little children, 
when the ancients have formed the phallus 
winged, when the popular designation of the 
sexual activity of man is expressed in Ger- 
man by the word "to bird'' (vogeln), when the 
male member is directly called Vuc cello (bird) 
by the Italians, all these facts are only small 
fragments from a large collection which 
teaches us that the wish to be able to fly signi- 
fies in the dream nothing more or less than the 
longing for the ability of sexual accomplish- 
ment. This is an early infantile wish. When 
the grown-up recalls his childhood it appears to 
him as a happy time in which one is happy for 
the moment and looks to the future without 
any wishes, it is for this reason that he envies 
children. But if children themselves could in- 
form us about it they would probably give dif- 
ferent reports. It seems that childhood is not 
that blissful Idyl into which we later distort 
it, that on the contrary children are lashed 
through the years of childhood by the wish to 
become big, and to imitate the grown ups. 
This wish instigates all their playing. If in 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 109 

the course of their sexual investigation chil- 
dren feel that the grown up knows something 
wonderful in the mysterious and yet so im- 
portant realm, what they are prohibited from 
knowing or doing, they are seized with a vio- 
lent wish to know it, and dream of it in the 
form of flying, or prepare this disguise of the 
wish for their later flying dreams. Thus avia- 
tion, which has attained its aim in our times, 
has also its infantile erotic roots. 

By admitting that he entertained a special 
personal relation to the problem of flying since 
his childhood, Leonardo bears out what we 
must assume from our investigation of chil- 
dren of our times, namely, that his childhood 
investigation was directed to sexual matters. 
At least this one problem escaped the repres- 
sion which has later estranged him from sex- 
uality. From childhood until the age of per- 
fect intellectual maturity this subject, slightly 
varied, continued to hold his interest, and it is 
quite possible that he was as little successful 
in his cherished art in the primary sexual sense 
as in his desires for mechanical matters, that 
both wishes were denied to him. 



no LEONARDO DA VINCI 

As a matter of fact the great Leonardo re- 
mained infantile in some ways throughout his 
whole life; it is said that all great men retain 
something of the infantile. As a grown up he 
still continued playing, which sometimes made 
him appear strange and incomprehensible to 
his contemporaries. When he constructed the 
most artistic mechanical toys for court festivi- 
ties and receptions we are dissatisfied thereby 
because we dislike to see the master waste his 
power on such petty stuff. He himself did not 
seem averse to giving his time to such things. 
Vasari reports that he did similar things even 
when not urged to it by request: 'There (in 
Rome) he made a doughy mass out of wax, 
and when it softened he formed thereof very 
delicate animals filled with air; when he blew 
into them they flew in the air, and when the 
air was exhausted they fell to the ground. For 
a peculiar lizard caught by the wine-grower 
of Belvedere Leonardo made wings from skin 
pulled off from other lizards, which he filled 
with mercury so that they moved and trem- 
bled when it walked ; he then made for it eyes, 
a beard and horns, tamed it and put it in a lit- 



LEONARDO DA VINCI in 

tie box and terrified all his friends with it." ^ 
Such playing often served him as an expression 
of serious thoughts: *'He had often cleaned 
the intestines of a sheep so well that one could 
hold them in the hollow of the hand ; he brought 
them into a big room, and attached them to 
a blacksmith's bellows which he kept in an ad- 
ijacent room, he then blew them up until they 
filled up the whole room so that everybody 
had to crowd into a corner. In this manner 
he showed how they gradually became trans- 
parent and filled up with air, and as they were 
at first limited to very little space and grad- 
ually became more and more extended in the 
big room, he compared them to a genius." ^^ 
His fables and riddles evince the same playful 
pleasure in harmless concealment and artistic 
investment, the riddles were put into the form 
of prophecies; almost all are rich in ideas and 
to a remarkable degree devoid of wit. 

The plays and jumps which Leonardo al- 
lowed his phantasy have in some cases quite 
misled his biographers who misunderstood this 

^ Vasari, translated by Schorn, 1843. 
^^ Ebenda, p. 39. 



112 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

part o£ his nature. In Leonardo's Milanese 
manuscripts one finds, for example, outlines 
of letters to the "Diodario of Sorio (Syria), 
viceroy of the holy Sultan of Babylon," in 
which Leonardo presents himself as an en- 
gineer sent to these regions of the Orient in 
order to construct some works. In these let- 
ters he defends himself against the reproach 
of laziness, he furnishes geographical descrip- 
tions of cities and mountains, and finally dis- 
cusses a big elementary event which occurred 
while he was there/^ 

In 1 88 1, J. P. Richter had endeavored to 
prove from these documents that Leonardo 
made these traveler's observations when he 
really was in the service of the Sultan of Egypt, 
and that while in the Orient he embraced the 
Mohammedan religion. This sojourn in the 
Orient should have taken place in the time of 
1483, that is, before he removed to the court 
of the Duke of Milan. However, it was not 
difficult for other authors to recognize the il- 

11 Concerning these letters and the combinations connected 
with them see Miintz, 1. c, p. 82; for the wording of the same 
and for the notices connected with them see Herzfeld, 1. c, 
p. 223. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 113 

lustrations of this supposed journey to the 
Orient as what they really were, namely, phan- 
tastic productions of the youthful artist which 
he created for his own amusement, and in 
which he probably brought to expression his 
wishes to see the world and experience adven- 
tures. 

A phantastic formation is probably also the 
"Academia Vinciana," the acceptance of which 
is due to the existence of five or six most clever 
and intricate emblems with the inscription of 
the Academy. Vasari mentions these draw- 
ings but not the Academy. ^^ Miintz who 
placed such ornament on the cover of his big 
work on Leonardo belongs to the few who 
believe in the reality of an "Academia Vin- 
ciana." 

It is probable that this impulse to play dis- 
appeared in Leonardo's maturer years, that it 
became discharged in the investigating activity 

12 Besides, he lost some time in that he even made a drawing 
of a braided cord in which one could follow the thread froitn 
one end to the other, until it formed a perfectly circular figure ; 
a very difficult and beautiful drawing of this kind is engraved 
on copper, in the center of it one can read the words : "Leo- 
nardus Vinci Academia" (p. 8). 



114 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

which signified the highest development of his 
personaHty. But the fact that it continued so 
long may teach us how slowly one tears himself 
away from his infantilism after having en- 
joyed in his childhood supreme erotic happiness 
which is later unattainable. 



VI 

It would be futile to delude ourselves that at 
present, readers find every pathography un- 
savory. This attitude is excused with the re- 
proach that from a pathographic elaboration 
of a great man one never obtains an under- 
standing of his importance and his attainments, 
that it is therefore useless mischief to study 
in him things which could just as well be found 
in the first comer. However, this criticism is 
so clearly unjust that it can only be grasped 
when viewed as a pretext and a disguise for 
something. As a matter of fact pathography 
does not aim at making comprehensible the at- 
tainments of the great man; no one should 
really be blamed for not doing something which 
one never promised. The real motives for the 
opposition are quite different. One finds them 
when one bears in mind that biographers are 
fixed on their heroes in quite a peculiar manner. 

"5 



ii6 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

Frequently they take the hero as the object of 
study because, for reasons of their personal 
emotional life, they bear him a special affec- 
tion from the very outset. They then devote 
themselves to a work of idealization which 
strives to enroll the great men among their in- 
fantile models, and to revive through him, as 
it were, the infantile conception of the father. 
For the sake of this wish they wipe out the in- 
dividual features in his physiognomy, they rub 
out the traces of his life's struggle with inner 
and outer resistances, and do not tolerate in 
him anything of human weakness or imperfec- 
tion; they then give us a cold, strange, ideal 
form instead of the man to whom we could feel 
distantly related. It is to be regretted that 
they do this, for they thereby sacrifice the truth 
to an illusion, and for the sake of their infan- 
tile phantasies they let slip the opportunity to 
penetrate into the most attractive secrets of hu- 
man nature.^ 

Leonardo himself, judging from his love for 
the truth and his inquisitiveness, would have 

1 This criticism holds quite generally and is not aimed at 
Leonardo's biographers in particular. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 117 

interposed no objections to the effort of dis- 
covering the determinations of his psychic and 
intellectual development from the trivial pe- 
culiarities and riddles of his nature. We re- 
spect him by learning from him. It does no 
injury to his greatness to study the sacrifices 
which his development from the child must 
have entailed, and to the compile factors which 
have stamped on his person the tragic feature 
of failure. 

Let us expressly emphasize that we have 
never considered Leonardo as a neurotic or as 
a "nervous person" in the sense of this awk- 
ward term. Whoever takes it amiss that we 
should even dare apply to him viewpoints 
gained from pathology, still clings to preju- 
dices which we have at present justly given up. 
We no longer believe that health and disease, 
normal and nervous, are sharply distinguished 
from each other, and that neurotic traits must 
be judged as proof of general inferiority. We 
know to-day that neurotic symptoms are sub- 
stitutive formations for certain repressive acts 
which have to be brought about in the course 
of our development from the child to the cul- 



ii8 LEONAREK) DA VINCI 

tural man, that we all produce such substitu- 
tive formations, and that only the amount, in- 
tensity, and distribution of these substitutive 
formations justify the practical conception of 
illness and the conclusion of constitutional in- 
feriority. Following the slight signs in Leo- 
nardo's personality we would place him near 
that neurotic type which we designate as the 
"compulsive type," and we would compare his 
investigation with the "reasoning mania" of 
neurotics, and his inhibitions with the so-called 
"abulias" of the latter. 

The object of our work was to explain the 
inhibitions in Leonardo's sexual life and in his 
artistic activity. For this purpose we shall 
now sum up what we could discover concern- 
ing the course of his psychic development. 

We were unable to gain any knowledge about 
his hereditary factors, on the other hand we 
recognize that the accidental circumstances of 
his childhood produced a far reaching disturb- 
ing effect. His illegitimate birth deprived him 
of the influence of a father until perhaps his 
fifth year, and left him to the tender seduction 
of a mother whose only consolation he was. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 119 

Having been kissed by her into sexual prema- 
turity, he surely must have entered into a phase 
of infantile sexual activity of which only one 
single manifestation was definitely evinced, 
namely, the intensity of his infantile sexual 
investigation. The impulse for looking and 
inquisitiveness were most strongly stimulated 
by his impressions from early childhood; the 
enormous mouth-zone received its accentuation 
which it had never given up. From his later 
contrasting behavior, as the exaggerated sym- 
pathy for animals, we can conclude that this 
infantile period did not lack in strong sadistic 
traits. 

An energetic shift of repression put an end 
to this infantile excess, and established the dis- 
positions which became manifest in the years 
of puberty. The most striking result of this 
transformation was a turning away from all 
gross sensual activities. Leonardo was able to 
lead a life of abstinence and made the impres- 
sion of an asexual person. When the floods 
of pubescent excitement came over the boy they 
did not make him ill by forcing him to costly 
and harmful substitutive formations ; owing to 



120 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

the early preference for sexual inquisitiveness, 
the greater part of the sexual needs could be 
sublimated into a general thirst after knowl- 
edge and so elude repression. A much smaller 
portion of the libido was applied to sexual aims, 
and represented the stunted sexual life of the 
grown up. In consequence of the repression 
of the love for the mother this portion assumed 
a homosexual attitude and manifested itself as 
ideal love for boys. The fixation on the 
mother, as well as the happy reminiscences of 
his relations with her, was preserved in his un- 
conscious but remained for the time in an in- 
active state. In this manner the repression, 
fixation, and sublimation participated in the 
disposal of the contributions which the sex- 
ual impulse furnished to Leonardo's psychic 
life. 

From the obscure age of boyhood Leonardo 
appears to us as an artist, a painter, and sculp- 
tor, thanks to a specific talent which was prob- 
ably enforced by the early awakening of the im- 
pulse for looking in the first years of childhood. 
We would gladly report in what way the artis- 
tic activity depends on the psychic primitive 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 121 

forces were it not that our material is inade- 
quate just here. We content ourselves by em- 
phasizing the fact, concerning which hardly 
any doubt still exists, that the productions of 
the artist give outlet also to his sexual desire, 
and in the case of Leonardo we can refer to the 
information imparted by Vasari, namely, that 
heads of laughing women and pretty boys, or 
representations of his sexual objects, attracted 
attention among his first artistic attempts. It 
seems that during his flourishing youth Leo- 
nardo at first worked in an uninhibited manner. 
As he took his father as a model for his outer 
conduct in life, he passed through a period of 
manly creative power and artistic productivity 
in Milan, where favored by fate he found a sub- 
stitute for his father in the duke Lodovico 
Moro. But the experience of others was soon 
confirmed in him, to wit, that the almost com- 
plete suppression of the real sexual life does 
not furnish the most favorable conditions for 
the activity of the sublimated sexual strivings. 
The figurativeness of his sexual life asserted 
itself, his activity and ability to quick decisions 
began to weaken, the tendency to reflection and 



122 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

delay was already noticeable as a disturbance 
in The Holy Supper, and with the influence of 
the technique determined the fate of this mag- 
nificent work. Slowly a process developed in 
him which can be put parallel only to the re- 
gressions of neurotics. His development at 
puberty into the artist was outstripped by the 
early infantile determinant of the investigator, 
the second sublimation of his erotic impulses 
turned back to the primitive one which was pre- 
pared at the first repression. He became an 
investigator, first in service of his art, later 
independently and away from his art. With 
the loss of his patron, the substitute for his fa- 
ther, and with the increasing difficulties in his 
life, the regressive displacement extended in 
dimension. He became 'Hmpacientissimo al 
pennello" (most impatient with the brush) as 
reported by a correspondent of the countess 
Isabella d'Este who desired to possess at any 
cost a painting from his hand.^ His infantile 
past had obtained control over him. The in- 
vestigation, however, which now took the place 
of his artistic production, seems to have born 

2 Seidlitz II, p. 271. 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 123 

certain traits which betrayed the activity of un- 
conscious impulses; this was seen in his in- 
satiability, his regardless obstinacy, and in his 
lack of ability to adjust himself to actual con- 
ditions. 

At the summit of his life, in the age of the 
first fifties, at a time when the sex characteris- 
tics of the woman have already undergone a 
regressive change, and when the libido in the 
man not infrequently ventures into an ener- 
getic advance, a new transformation came over 
him. Still deeper strata of his psychic content 
became active again, but this further regres- 
sion was of benefit to his art which was in a 
state of deterioration. He met the woman 
who awakened in him the memory of the happy 
and sensuously enraptured smile of his mother, 
and under the influence of this awakening he 
acquired back the stimulus which guided him 
in the beginning of his artistic efiforts when he 
formed the smiling woman. He painted 
Monna Lisa, Saint Anne, and a number of 
mystic pictures which were characterized by 
the enigmatic smile. With the help of his old- 
est erotic feelings he triumphed in conquering 



124 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

once more the inhibition in his art. This last 
development faded away in the obscurity of the 
approaching old age. But before this his in- 
tellect rose to the highest capacity of a view of 
life, which was far in advance of his time. 

In the preceding chapters I have shown what 
justification one may have for such represen- 
tation of Leonardo's course of development, 
for this manner of arranging his life and ex- 
plaining his wavering between art and science. 
If after accomplishing these things I should 
provoke the criticism from even friends and 
adepts of psychoanalysis, that I have only writ- 
ten a psychoanalytic romance, I should answer 
that I certainly did not overestimate the relia- 
bility of these results. Like others I suc- 
cumbed to the attraction emanating from this 
great and mysterious man, in whose being one 
seems to feel powerful propelling passions, 
which after all can only evince themselves so 
remarkably subdued. 

But whatever may be the truth about Leo- 
nardo's life we cannot relinquish our effort to 
investigate it psychoanalytically before we have 
finished another task. In general we must 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 125 

mark out the limits which are set up for the 
working capacity of psychoanalysis in biog- 
raphy so that every omitted explanation should 
not be held up to us as a failure. Psycho- 
analytic investigation has at its disposal the 
data of the history of the person's life, which 
on the one hand consists of accidental events 
and environmental influences, and on the other 
hand of the reported reactions of the individ- 
ual. Based on the knowledge of psychic mech- 
anisms it now seeks to investigate dynamically 
the character of the individual from his reac- 
tions, and to lay bare his earliest psychic motive 
forces as well as their later transformations 
and developments. If this succeeds then the 
reaction of the personality is explained through 
the cooperation of constitutional and accidental 
factors or through inner and outer forces. If 
such an undertaking, as perhaps in the case of 
Leonardo, does not yield definite results then 
the blame for it is not to be laid to the faulty 
or inadequate psychoanalytic method, but to 
the vague and fragmentary material left by 
tradition about this person. It is, therefore, 
only the author who forced psychoanalysis to 



126 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

furnish an expert opinion on such insufficient 
material, who is to be held responsible for the 
failure. 

However, even if one had at his disposal a 
very rich historical material and could manage 
the psychic mechanism with the greatest cer- 
tainty, a psychoanalytic investigation could not 
possibly furnish the definite view, if it con- 
cerns two important questions, that the individ- 
ual could turn out only so and not differently. 
Concerning Leonardo we had to represent the 
view that the accident of his illegitimate birth 
and the pampering of his mother exerted the 
most decisive influence on his character forma- 
tion and his later fate, through the fact that 
the sexual repression following this infantile 
phase caused him to sublimate his libido into 
a thirst after knowledge, and thus determined 
his sexual inactivity for his entire later life. 
The repression, however, which followed the 
first erotic gratification of childhood did not 
have to take place, in another individual it 
would perhaps not have taken place or it would 
have turned out not nearly as profuse. We 
must recognize here a degree of freedom which 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 127 

can no longer be solved psychoanalytically. 
One is as little justified in representing the issue 
of this shift of repression as the only possible 
issue. It is quite probable that another person 
would not have succeeded in withdrawing the 
main part of his libido from the repression 
through sublimation into a desire for knowl- 
edge; under the same influences as Leonardo 
another person might have sustained a per- 
manent injury to his intellectual work or an 
uncontrollable disposition to compulsion neuro- 
sis. The two characteristics of Leonardo 
which remained unexplained through psycho- 
analytic effort are first, his particular tendency 
to repress his impulses, and second, his extraor- 
dinary ability to sublimate the primitive im- 
pulses. 

The impulses and their transformations are 
the last things that psychoanalysis can discern. 
Henceforth it leaves the place to biological in- 
vestigation. The tendency to repression, as 
well as the ability to sublimate, must be traced 
back to the organic bases of the character, upon 
which alone the psychic structure springs up. 
As artistic talent and productive ability are 



128 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

intimately connected with sublimation we have 
to admit that also the nature of artistic attain- 
ment is psychoanalytically inaccessible to us. 
Biological investigation of our time endeavors 
to explain the chief traits of the organic con- 
stitution of a person through the fusion of male 
and female predispositions in the material 
sense; Leonardo's physical beauty as well as 
his left-handedness furnish here some support. 
However, we do not wish to leave the ground 
of pure psychologic investigation. Our aim 
remains to demonstrate the connection between 
outer experiences and reactions of the person 
over the path of the activity of the impulses. 
Even if psychoanalysis does not explain to us 
the fact of Leonardo's artistic accomplishment, 
it still gives us an understanding of the expres- 
sions and limitations of the same. It does 
seem as if only a man with Leonardo's child- 
hood experiences could have painted Monna 
Lisa and Saint Anne, and could have supplied 
his works with that sad fate and so obtain un- 
heard of fame as a natural historian ; it seems 
as if the key to all his attainments and failures 



LEONARDO DA VINCI 129 

was hidden in the childhood phantasy of the 
(vulture. 

But may one not take offense at the results 
of an investigation which concede to the acci- 
dents of the parental constellation so decisive 
an influence on the fate of a person, which, for 
example, subordinates Leonardo's fate to his 
illegitimate birth and to the sterility of his first 
step-mother Donna Albiera? I believe that 
one has no right to feel so; if one considers 
accident as unworthy of determining our fate, 
it is only a relapse to the pious aspect of life, 
the overcoming of which Leonardo himself 
prepared when he put down in writing that the 
sun does not move. We are naturally grieved 
over the fact that a just God and a kindly provi- 
dence do not guard us better against such in- 
fluences in our most defenseless age. We 
thereby gladly forget that as a matter of fact 
everything in our life is accident from our very 
origin through the meeting of spermatozoa and 
ovum, accident, which nevertheless participates 
in the lawfulness and fatalities of nature, and 
lacks only the connection to our wishes and 



130 LEONARDO DA VINCI 

illusions. The division of life's determinants 
into the "fatalities" of our constitution and the 
"accidents" of our childhood may still be in- 
definite in individual cases, but taken alto- 
gether one can no longer entertain any doubt 
about the importance of precisely our first 
years of childhood. We all still show too little 
respect for nature, which in Leonardo's deep 
words recalling Hamlet's speech 'Hs full of in- 
finite reasons which never appeared in experi- 
ence!* ^ Every one of us human beings cor- 
responds to one of the infinite experiments in 
which these "reasons of nature" force them- 
selves into experience. 

* La natura e piena d'infinite ragione che non f urono mai in 
isperienza, M. Herzfeld, 1. c. p. ii. 



THE END