45 pages 1 hour read

Sigmund Freud

The Uncanny

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1919

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Part 5, “Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood”Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Summary: Part 5, “Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood”

The fifth section of the essay begins with the observation of a “trifle,” to which “anyone other than a psychoanalyst would attach no importance” (90). Yet repetition is significant, since distraction reveals hidden “impulses.” The repetition in question occurs in a note da Vinci made recording the death of his father. Upon moving into his father’s house at the age of 5, Freud claims that da Vinci would have entered into a psychosexual rivalry with his father. This continued in Leonardo’s taste for fine things. Da Vinci also imitated his father when it came to his artworks, which he ceased to care about as soon as he had completed them, “just as his father had ceased to care about [da Vinci]” (92). Yet when it came to da Vinci’s scientific career, his ability to question authority (the abandoning father) facilitated his scientific research.

Freud contends that as soon as belief in the father breaks down, so does belief in God. While da Vinci was never directly heretical, he did question. Likewise, his aspirations as an aviator are associated by Freud with sexual achievement. Da Vinci’s childlike, playful nature, which saw him develop whimsical court entertainments and riddles, is also linked by Freud to da Vinci’s childhood “erotic bliss” (98).