Freud’s Essay on Leonardo: The Debate 1910-2000

Starting from a critical reading of Freud’s essay A Childhood Memory of Leonardo da Vinci, the author tries to assess whether it is still valuable. The historical debate between Schapiro and Eissler as well as to the more recent work of Maïdani Gerard and Collins is discussed. It appears that the central element of Freud’s psychobiographical contribution, i.e., the interpretation of Leonardo’s affective indifference and his inhibition in his artistic creation by his latent homosexuality, has found more support in recent biographical and iconographical research. More specifically, it is argued that Freud’s intuitions, both with respect to the circumstances of Leonardo’s early childhood, and to the uniqueness of his St. Anne with Two Others, have finally been accepted.