A psycho-analytic study of Leonardo, based on his youthful experiences, is rather hazardous on account of the poverty of the material extant. There is, in fact, only one statement to rely on. In one of his notes Leonardo remarks that as an infant in the cradle he remembers that a vulture alighted near him, and that its tail touched his mouth; hence, he thinks, his interest in the problem of flight. Freud questions whether this was a real experience. It recalls the infantile pseudo-reminiscences which occur in hysteria and allied conditions, and frequently have reference to precocious sexual feelings. The bird and the tail are sexual symbols. Hence, being psycho-analytically interpreted, this phantasy means that Leonardo was marked by infantile sexuality of passive character, such as is sometimes produced by excessive maternal caresses. It is well known that Leonardo was an illegitimate child, who lived with his mother to the age of five, when he was taken into the house of his father, whose wife was sterile. Freud imagines that the husbandless mother lavished all her affection on the child, who reciprocated her emotions, suppressing them as he grew up, so that they became transformed into an “idealised homosexuality,” and left him sexually frigid to women. As a youth, it is proved, Leonardo got into trouble, and was perhaps imprisoned, through associating with sexual inverts, and he always loved to surround himself with beautiful boy pupils, There is no evidence that he had any relationship, even of friendship, with women. Freud sees his love to his mother reappearing at the age of fifty in the labour which he devoted to his portrait of Monna Lisa, whose smile (reminiscent of his mother's, says Freud) strangely haunted him, and is seen again in the Anna with her daughter Mary in her lap at the Louvre. For Freud these two women, who appear of like age, represent the artist's mother and his father's wife—his second mother. Leonardo always remained much of a child, and delighted in inventing curious toys; this is traced to the inhibition exerted by his infantile sexuality, and his inquisitiveness, which developed into profound scientific curiosity, is traced to the same source. Freud refrains from labelling Leonardo as neurotic, but considers that he revealed characters which allied him to that type.
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