--A report of the Association of Hackbilly Harpies, Hatmandu, 196_

The psychoanalyst, said Freud, is particularly interested in what to others would be trifling errors. Although Freud himself bore the sweetness of feature, rounded, buttery facial contours and piercing brilliance of regard that Leonardo coveted as subjects for his portraits, it was in Freud's monograph, Leonardo da Vinci: A Study in Psychosexuality, that the simpering, travestied look from which Freud in his revolt from the Victorian moral frame might have recoiled was most notably applied, as if deliberately, to the reproduction of Leonardo's most famous canvases. Particularly in the faces of the Mona Lisa (the Gioconda) and St. John the Baptist was a resoundingly fatuous, even sinister expression purveyed, over the miracles of subtlety da Vinci had produced. But this, some say, was the problem only of the Modern Library paperback edition of 1947.

It was noted by no less august a figure than JoJy Havishellis that, by 1947, a readiness on the part of enlightened world citizens for the underlying psychostructures even of paintings in reproduction had perhaps finally been attained, so that these figures became able to shed, if nothing else, at least the outermost veils of personality that oppressed and stifled them. Thus, the Modern Library edition held the ultimate word, which, while not exactly Rousseauian, was still not as draconian as that of the severest Christian saints [Paul, Augustine, Durchmezine, Chlorpetol].

         As for the trio of "the Holy Family" (as it is listed in the illustration credits), St. Anne, the Virgin and child, around whose trauma the thesis had been formed, was it only in our imagination that the face of the madonna had begun to lean in a distinctly reptilian direction?

         Yet when we sought to investigate, to uncover who or what it was which was responsible for the eerie quality of the reproductions in the book, an unaccountable silence asserted itself. No one was there. The office was empty. No credits of any kind were given, except the misguided titles of the works themselves. Neither on the copyright page, the Table of Contents nor anywhere else in the front matter was there the slightest hint that the pictured works had not blown in fresh and new on the half-shell, fully formed, self-contained and unto themselves, albeit distortedly and unsettlingly imbued with foreboding, untrue to their original sources and profoundly incapable of expressing any of the points Freud, or for that matter da Vinci, tried to make. The only thing the assiduous reader ever found was the assurance at the foot of the half title page: "MODERN LIBRARY PAPERBACKS are published by Random House in order to make the best books of all time available to the public at a price it can readily afford."

         In interpreting the interpretations of Freud with regard to da Vinci, the reader of the Modern Library edition of 1947 was left with only the slight ministrations of A.A. Brill, the authorized translator, who himself could have used a little interpretation.

         From his introduction: "...this linking of sex and Freud, as if they had appeared in the same breath, is based on the fact that, after sex had been kept more or less incarcerated in the nether regions of civilized mankind, Freud discovered it, as it were, and established that it was not only astir, but often very meddlesome." "...[S]ex went underground and behaved like an outcast who...often creates confusion by popping up where and when least expected." And, later: "Bold spirits began to undig the now-mutilated Venuses, and to record the forgotten thoughts of the Ionian sages..." and finally, "From the infantile phantasy which Leonardo recalled while he was still in his cradle, Freud masterfully reconstructed the whole unconscious life of the most inscrutable, the most fascinating personage of the Renaissance."

      And Brill's subject—or object—Dr. Freud informed us that, after having attained the first erotic gratification of childhood (the fantasy that a vulture was assaulting him), the physically beautiful, left-handed and illegitimate Leonardo chose to sublimate his sexuality for the rest of his life, giving full voice to the aptitude that was manifested in his works of art and his explorations in natural science and only minor peeps to the perseverations evidenced in such locutions as "On the 9th July, 1504, at 7 o'clock, died [my father], notary at the palace of the Podesta, my father, at 7 o'clock," which it was the psychoanalyst's duty and wont to notice and figure out.

[Jill S. Rapaport /text] [Leonardo da Vinci/portraits]


Big Bridge, 2 Prose Pieces by Jill S. Rapaport
Lungful #3 (Archives)
Autonomedia, Unbearables, Crimes of the Beats
Autonomedia, The Unbearables
Outlaw Bible of American Poetry
Big Bio
(1947) Leonardo da Vinci: A Study in Psychosexuality

copyright 2007 Thin Ice Press
copyright 2007 Jill S. Rapaport