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Owens, M.E. (2004). Forgetting Signorelli: Monstrous Visions of the Resurrection of the Dead. Am. Imago, 61(1):7-33.

(2004). American Imago, 61(1):7-33

Forgetting Signorelli: Monstrous Visions of the Resurrection of the Dead

Margaret E. Owens

“For I had already been in a grave once.”

—Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

“I have had no looking-glasse in my grave, to see how my body looks in the dissolution.”

—John Donne, “Sermon Preached at Lincoln's Inn on Job 19:26 (Easter Term[?] 1620)”

Few visitors to Orvieto spend more than an afternoon taking in the major sights. A current American guidebook to Italy advises tourists that the Umbrian hilltown, celebrated for its combination of Etruscan antiquities, Gothic architecture, and Renaissance art, not to mention its eponymous white wine, “has a good half day of sightseeing.” German tourists, who far outnumber the Americans visiting Orvieto, seem to have received similar guidance. Each day brings a fresh influx of visitors: in the hour or so before noon, automobiles and tour buses converge on Orvieto, having set out earlier that morning from Rome, Florence, or Siena. First on the travelers’ itinerary is the cathedral, with its magnificent series of apocalyptic frescoes by Luca Signorelli. Typically, a tour of the cathedral will be closely followed by a descent into the Etruscan grottoes for a subterranean glimpse into the town's pre-Christian past.

It seems that the tourist itinerary for Orvieto has remained fairly constant over the past hundred years, as this was roughly Freud's program when he visited the hilltown and its environs during his tour of northern Italy in September 1897. Freud kept a relentless pace during his fortnight of travel, rarely spending more than one night in a town.

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