This section is from the book "Leonardo Da Vinci: A Psychosexual Study Of An Infantile Reminiscence", by Sigmund Freud. Also available from Amazon: Leonardo da Vinci: A Psychosexual Study of an Infantile Reminiscence.
Following this primary stage, a transformation takes place whose mechanisms we know but whose motive forces we have not yet grasped. The love of the mother cannot continue to develop consciously so diat it merges into repression. The boy represses the love for die mother by putting himself in her place, by identifying himself with her, and by taking his own person as a model dirough the similarity of which he is guided in die selection of his love object. He thus becomes homosexual; as a matter of fact he returns to the stage of autoeroticism, for die boys whom the growing adult now loves are only substitutive persons or revivals of his own childish person, whom he loves in die same way as his mother loved him. We say diat he finds his love object on the road to narcissism, for die Greek legend called a boy Narcissus to whom nothing was more pleasing dian his own mirrored image, and who became transformed into a beautiful flower of this name.
Deeper psychological discussions justify the assertion diat die person who becomes homosexual in this manner remains fixed in his unconscious on the memory picture of his mother. By repressing the love for his mother he conserves the same in his unconscious and hence-fortii remains faithful to her. When as a lover he seems to pursue boys, he really thus runs away from women who could cause him to become faithless to his mother. Through direct observation of individual cases we could demonstrate that he who is seemingly receptive only to masculine stimuli is in reality influenced by the charms emanating from women just like a normal person, but each and every time he hastens to transfer die stimulus he received from the woman to a male object and in this manner he repeats again and again the mechanism through which he acquired his homosexuality.
It is far from us to exaggerate the importance of these explanations concerning the psychic genesis of homosexuality. It is quite clear that they are in crass opposition to the official theories of the homosexual spokesmen, but we are aware that these explanations are not sufficiently comprehensive to render possible a final explanation of the problem. What one calls homosexual for practical purposes may have its origin in a variety of psychosex-ual inhibiting processes, and the process recognized by us is perhaps only one among many, and has reference only to one type of "homosexuality." We must also admit, diat the number of cases in our homosexual type which shows die conditions required by us, exceeds by far diose cases in which the resulting effect really appears, so that even we cannot reject the supposed cooperation of unknown constitutional factors from which one was otherwise wont to deduce the whole of homosexuality. As a matter of fact diere would be no occasion for entering into the psychic genesis of the form of homosexuality studied by us if diere were not a strong presumption that Leonardo, from whose vulture-fantasy we started, really belonged to this one type of homosexuality.
As littie as is known concerning the sexual behavior of the great artist and investigator, we must still trust to die probability that the testimonies of his contemporaries did not go far astray. In the light of this tradition he appears to us as a man whose sexual need and activity were extraordinarily low, as if a higher striving had raised him above the common animal need of mankind. It may be open to doubt whether he ever sought direct sexual gratification, or in what manner, or whedier he could dispense with it altogether. We are justified, however, to look for those emotional streams in him which imperatively force others to the sexual act, for we cannot imagine a human psychic life in whose development the sexual desire in the broadest sense, the libido, has not had its share, whedier die latter has withdrawn itself far from die original aim or whether it was detained from being put into execution.
We need not expect in Leonardo anything but traces of unchanged sexual desire. These point however to one direction and allow us to count him among homosexuals. It has always been emphasized that he took as his pupils only strikingly handsome boys and youdis. He was kind and considerate towards them, he cared for them and nursed them himself when they were ill, just like a modier nurses her children, as his own mother might have cared for him. As he selected them on account of their beauty rather dian dieir talent, none of diem —Cesare da Sesto, G. Boltraffio, Andrea Sa-laino, Francesco Melzi and the odiers—ever became a prominent artist. Most of them could not make themselves independent of their master and disappeared after his death without leaving a more definite physiognomy to the history of art. The others who by their productions earned the right to call diemselves his pupils, as Luini and Bazzi, nicknamed Sodoma, he probably did not know personally.
We realize that we will have to face the objection that Leonardo's behavior towards his pupils surely had nodiing to do with sexual motives, and permits no conclusion as to his sexual peculiarity. Against this we wish to assert with all caution that our conception explains some strange features in the master's behavior which otherwise would have remained enigmatical. Leonardo kept a diary; he made entries in his small hand, written from right to left which were meant only for himself. It is to be noted that in this diary he addressed himself as "thou": "Learn from master Lucca the multiplication of roots.'"' "Let master d'Abacco show thee the square of the circle."46 Or on die occasion of a journey he entered in his diary:
"I am going to Milan to look after die affairs of my garden . . . order two pack-sacks to be made. Ask Boltraffio to show thee his turning-lathe and let him polish a stone on it.— Leave the book to master Andrea il Todesco."47 Or he wrote a resolution of quite different significance: "Thou must show in thy treatise that the earth is a star, like the moon or resembling it, and dius prove the nobility of our world."'8