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.
Among the entries in Leonardo's diaries there is one which absorbs the reader's attention through its important content and on account of a small formal error. In July, 1504, he wrote:
"Adi 9 Luglio, 1504, mercoledi, a ore 7 mori Ser Piero da Vinci notalio alpalazzo del Po-testa, mio padre, a ore 7. Era d'eta d'anni SO, lascid 10 liglioli maschi e 2 feminine. ""'
The notice as we see deals with the death of Leonardo's fadier. The slight error in its form consists in die fact that in die computation of the time "at 7 o'clock" is repeated, as if Leonardo had forgotten at the end of the sentence that he had already written it at die beginning. It is only a triviality to which any one but a psychoanalyst would pay no attention. Perhaps he would not even notice it, or if his attention would be called to it he would say "that can happen to anybody because of absent-mindedness or in an affective state and has no further meaning."
The psychoanalyst diinks differently; to him nothing is too trifling as a manifestation of hidden psychic processes; he has long learned diat such forgetting or repetition is full of meaning, and diat one is indebted to the "absent-mindedness" when it makes possible the betrayal of otherwise concealed feelings.
We would say diat, like the funeral account of Caterina and the expense account of the pupils, this notice, too, corresponds to a case in which Leonardo was unsuccessful in suppressing his affects, and the long hidden feeling forcibly obtained a distorted expression. Also the form is similar, it shows the same pedantic precision, die same pushing forward of numbers.7"
We call such a repetition a perseveration.
It is an excellent means to indicate die affective accentuation. One recalls for example Saint Peter's angry speech against his unworthy representative on earth, as given in Dante's Para-diso:71
"Quegli ch 'usurps in term illuoga mio Illuogamio, iliuogo mio, che vaca Nella presenza del Figliuol di Dio, Fatto ha del cimiterio mio cloaca."
Without Leonardo's affective inhibition the entry into die diary could perhaps have read as follows: To-day at 7 o'clock died my father, Ser Piero da Vinci, my poor fadier! But the displacement of die perseveration to such an indifferent statement of the dying hour in the obituary robs die notice of all pathos and lets us recognize that there was something here to conceal and to suppress.
Ser Piero da Vinci, notary and descendant of notaries, was a man of great energy who attained respect and affluence. He was married four times. The two first wives died childless, and not till the third marriage had he gotten the first legitimate son, in 1476, when Leonardo was 24 years old, and had long ago changed his father's home for the studio of his master Verrocchio. With the fourth and last wife whom he married when he was already in die fifties he begot nine sons and two daughters.'2 To be sure the father also assumed importance in Leonardo's psychosexual development, and what is more, it was not only in a negative sense, dirough his absence during die boy's first childhood years, but also directly through his presence in his later childhood. He who as a child desires his mother, cannot help wishing to put himself in his father's place, to identify himself with him in his fantasy and later make it his life's task to triumph over him. As Leonardo was not yet five years old when he was received into his paternal home, the young step-mother, Albiera, certainly must have taken the place of his mother in his feeling, and diis brought him into diat relation of rivalry to his father which may be designated as normal. As is known, the preference for homosexuality did not manifest itself till near the years of puberty. When Leonardo accepted this preference die identification with the father lost all significance for his sexual life, but continued in other spheres of non-erotic activity. We hear that he was fond of luxury and pretty raiments, and kept servants and horses, aldiough according to Vasari "he hardly possessed anything and worked little." We shall not hold his artistic taste entirely responsible for all these special likings; we recognize in them also the compulsion to copy his father and to excel him. He played the part of the great gentleman to the poor peasant girl; hence the son also felt compelled to play the great gentleman, "to out-Herod Herod," and to show his father exactly what real high rank looks like.
Whoever works as an artist certainly feels as a father to his works. The identification with his father had a fateful result in Leonardo's works of art. He created them and then troubled himself no longer about them, just as his father did not trouble himself about him. The later anxieties of his father could change nodiing in diis compulsion, as the latter originated from die impressions of the first years of childhood, and the repression having remained unconscious was not corrective by later experiences.
At the time of the Renaissance, and even much later, every artist was in need of a gentleman of rank to act as his benefactor. This patron was wont to give the artist commissions for work and entirely controlled his destiny. Leonardo found his patron in Lodovico Sforza, nicknamed II Moro, a man of high aspirations, ostentations, diplomatically astute, but of an unstable and unreliable character. In his court in Milan Leonardo spent die best period of his life, and while in his service he evinced his most uninhibited productive activity as is evidenced in The Last Supper, and in the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza. He left Milan before die catastrophe struck Lodovico Moro, who died a prisoner in a French prison. When die news of his benefactor's fate reached Leonardo he made the following entry in his diary: "The duke has lost state, wealth, and liberty, not one of his works will be finished by himself.'"3 It is remarkable and surely not without significance diat here he raised die same reproach to his benefactor that posterity was to apply to him (Leonardo), as if he wanted to lay the responsibility for die fact that he himself left his works unfinished on a fadier-substitute. As a matter of fact he was not wrong in what he said about the Duke.