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Coco, J.M. (2002). Freud, Leonardo Da Vinci, and The Vulture's Tail: A Refreshing Look At Leonardo's Sexuality. Wayne Andersen New York: Other Press, 2001, 256 pp., $48.00 hardcover, $22.00 paperback. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50(4):1375-1383.

(2002). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 50(4):1375-1383

Freud, Leonardo Da Vinci, and The Vulture's Tail: A Refreshing Look At Leonardo's Sexuality. Wayne Andersen New York: Other Press, 2001, 256 pp., $48.00 hardcover, $22.00 paperback

Review by:
Janice M. Coco

Every so many years, new scholarship emerges to reawaken the controversy engendered by Freud's 1910 analysis of Leonardo da Vinci. Wayne Andersen's Freud, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Vulture's Tail revisits this intellectual fray with a remarkable intensity, as the author works through the various competing theories, including that of Freud. Andersen attempts to untangle the “mare's nest” that has been made of Leonardo's words and sexual identity (pp. 4, 24).

Readers who over the years have followed the trajectory of criticism elicited by Freud's infamous error will perhaps be put off by the rehashing of events implied by Andersen's title. Nevertheless, the author extends the already complex literature, offering an alternative explanation of the artist's sexuality and reexamining Freud's counter-transference in relation to Leonardo. For this reason, it is a worthy book for those interested in the practice and origins of applied psychoanalysis in the arts. Inasmuch as the validity of psychobiography has been challenged by art historians for ignoring crucial art historical evidence and, in turn, by psychoanalysts for the frequent lack of a living (or cooperative) analysand, it seems that the interdisciplinarian risks incurring the antagonism of both disciplines. In the specific instance of Freud's Leonardo, most authors have favored one discipline at the expense of the other; consequently, most of the ongoing criticism has been aimed not so much at conclusions as at methodology. Theoretically, it appears that psychoanalysis and art history are frequently at odds with each other, even though the creative process inherent to the practices of artmaking and therapy is potentially the same. As an art historian versed in psychoanalytic theory, Andersen casts a critical eye in both directions.

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