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Schröter, M. (1994). Two Empirical Notes on Freud's Leonardo. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:87-100.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:87-100

Two Empirical Notes on Freud's Leonardo

Michael Schröter


Why did Freud, in his Leonardo study, speak of a vulture instead of a kite (in Italian nibbio)? It can be shown that contemporary dictionaries rendered nibbio by Hühnergeier; that this designation of the kite was unfamiliar in Standard German; but that it was automatically understood as referring to a sub-species of Geier (vulture). Freud had an anachronistic idea about non-marital sex relations in quattrocento Italy. Such liaisons were not uncommon between higher-ranking males and lower-ranking females, their offspring were assigned to the paternal family. Leonardo's mother probably served as wetnurse for her illegitimate son, returning him to his father and being married to a man of equal standing after the customary time of weaning (ca. 18 months). Concerning Leonardo's psycho-sexual development, the corrected data shift the emphasis from the oedipal level (Freud) to an earlier, ambivalent motherchild relation (Eissler). Both notes warn against some pitfalls of psychobiography.

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