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Tip: To see Abram’s analysis of Winnicott’s theories…

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In-depth analysis of Winnicott’s psychoanalytic theorization was conducted by Jan Abrams in her work The Language of Winnicott. You can access it directly by clicking here.

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Rosenfeld, E.M. (1963). Leonardo Da Vinci. Psycho-Analytic Notes on the Enigma: By Kurt R. Eissler. (New York: Int. Univ. Press, 1961; London: Int. Psycho-Anal. Lib. and Hogarth, 1962. Pp. 375 + plates. $12.50; 65s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 44:113-115.

(1963). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 44:113-115

Leonardo Da Vinci. Psycho-Analytic Notes on the Enigma: By Kurt R. Eissler. (New York: Int. Univ. Press, 1961; London: Int. Psycho-Anal. Lib. and Hogarth, 1962. Pp. 375 + plates. $12.50; 65s.)

Review by:
Eva M. Rosenfeld

The book reviewer has a twofold obligation. To the author he must convey his grasp of the book's essential intentions; to the reader, on the other hand, he has to pass on as vividly as possible what he thinks the reader should know before he reads, and to facilitate acquaintance with the book's main ideas in case there is no intention of reading it. Criticism and fault-finding are the easiest of tasks but always lack some intrinsic justice. This is especially the case with regard to an experimental treatise on the possibility of reconstructing psycho-analytical data of a great man's life. Eissler himself wants us to understand that he carries out the experiment of understanding a great, almost legendary figure of the past by using none but psycho-analytic tools. He applies them on a wide foundation. Beginning with polemics, he goes on to historical notes, to methodology, to problems of object relations and to notes on Leonardo's artistic creativity, ending (apart from four appendices) with a very interesting essay on the meaning of Leonardo's Deluge paintings and an even more important theory on trauma.

The composition of the book is rich but has the inevitable drawback that the richness of argumentation and psycho-analytical deduction will win the book as many enemies as friends. The first argument which will be used against Eissler's method might be that Leonardo was a man of the Renaissance and that we have the minds of Modern Man. But was not Leonardo to his century as much a modern man, a scientist of a new order, as Freud has been to his? Our century studies mental structure and aberrations in exactly the same revolutionary way and with exactly the same hazards that Leonardo's age found in the study of body structure and dynamics.

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