February 25, 2021

The sexual atrophy of Leonardo da Vinci

It is always a challenge of extreme demand: to write about one of the most interesting artists in history, of which there is infinite bibliography and biographical books as celebrated as that of the historian Charles Nicholl, «Leonardo. The flight of the mind », which investigated certain manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci found in the National Library of Madrid in 1965. And it is that we are before an artist who was also a prolific writer, as his seven thousand preserved pages attest (it seems that a quarter of what he wrote), although “he was not admitted among humanists, philologists or men of letters, despite his love for books. The intellectuals were then oblivious to art (which was linked to artisans), but Leonardo thought and wrote, sometimes, in his notebooks, with encouragement and writer style, ”said Luis Antonio de Villena in“ Leonardo da Vinci (a biography ) », Which Planet published in 1993.

A little over a year ago, Walter Isaacson offered us «Leonardo da Vinci» (Debate, 2018), which aspired to be «the definitive biographical life of the author of the« Vitrubian Man », that drawing of a man with arms extended within a circle and a square whose image is almost as famous as "The Last Supper" or the "Mona Lisa." He began his book by stating that Leonardo's gift of his many concerns was already taken into account by the young artist, who already looked skilled in engineering, with the ability to design bridges, canals, canyons, armored cars and public buildings. He saw himself as an artist who could sculpt in marble, bronze and plaster, and, of course, paint, in addition to being interested in anatomy and physiology, optics and vascular system, flying artifacts, weapons, kitchen…

Erotic drawings, no

even for his contemporaries, Da Vinci was someone "enigmatic, just as he still is for us." And this phrase is valid for the year 2019 as for «Leonardo da Vinci, a childhood memory», by Sigmund Freud (translation by Paul Kuffer). It was the only biography that the creator of psychoanalysis wrote and, how could it be otherwise, the painter soon appears in these pages from the sexual approach after analyzing his leisurely way of working (four years for the Mona Lisa and a endless unfinished works); more specifically, he notes the avoidance by the Italian of erotic drawings: «In the case of Leonardo, on the contrary, we have anatomical drawings of the interior of the female genitals, of the position of the embryo in the womb, and so on».

Freud's fixation to understand his object of study from the homosexual point of view makes its way, despite affirming that, even having been surrounded by young and beautiful disciples and even having been accused of having maintained gay relationships, from which he was acquitted, You cannot attribute too much sexual activity. The purpose, and in that Freud wants to distinguish himself from other biographers, is to deepen the psyche of the artist to the point of presenting him as a delicate but interested in the war arts, or as a man whose “affections were tamed and subjected to the investigative drive », What governed his life, making him a kind of neutral being, who« did not love or hate, but wondered where it came from what he should love or hate, what it meant ». Intellectualized the surrounding, but not for lack of passion: "He had simply turned passion into a thrust of knowing," giving himself to knowledge, at which point he let "the repressed affect explode for so long."

So the analysis of the artist is conditioned by these concepts – repression, impulsive forces … – which makes him someone who is beyond love and hate, Freud insists. Even part of his psychoanalytic studies on neurotics to conjecture that this drive for knowledge could then be replaced by sexual life, and determine that Leonardo could be classified as "a drive to investigate dominant with the atrophy of his sex life, which is reduced to '' ideal homosexuality '' ».

Freud risks those elucubrations, recognizing that he has no information on Da Vinci's childhood, but this is precisely the heart of the study, as reflected from the title. Freud refers a memory of Leonardo with a vulture, rather a fantastic dream of something that actually happened, and that leads him to reflect on the value of such primal memories when it comes to understanding the mood of the individual. In this case, it is not difficult for him to find an erotic handhold – the vulture opened the painter's mouth and hit him with his tail – but also a cultured reference, based on the veneration of this bird by the ancient Egyptians; In the end, language says it all, and Freud manages to relate everything to motherhood. And this at the same time with the artist's mother; the mother, in front of the absent father for being illegitimate son.

. (tagsToTranslate) toni montesinos

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