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Wolbarsht, M.L. Lichtenberg, J.D. (1961). Freud and the Moses of Michaelangelo. Am. Imago, 18(3):263-268.

(1961). American Imago, 18(3):263-268

Freud and the Moses of Michaelangelo

Myron L. Wolbarsht and Joseph D. Lichtenberg

Throughout his adult life Sigmund Freud continually returned to one theme - that of the story of Moses. He considered not only the historical Moses, but also how the myths about Moses expressed the psychological truth in religion. These were the subjects of his last book, Moses and Monotheism. (13) His earliest work on Moses, the essay The Moses of Michaelangelo, limited itself to the interpretation of the time in Moses' life represented by Michaelangelo's statue. (2)

The Moses statue was planned as a part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. The tomb was to have had five other statues, each representing an important historical figure. Since the tomb was never finished we do not know exactly how the statue of Moses would have fitted into the whole. However, the statue of Moses is itself quite imposing. Freud says that no piece of statuary made a stronger impression upon him than this one. (2) Ernest Jones suggests that at various times Moses represented a Father-Image to Freud and it seems likely that at other times Freud identified himself with Moses. (4) There is no doubt, Jones goes on to say, that this particular essay is of special interest to students of Freud's personality.

The present paper is an attempt to add to our understanding of one facet of Freud's complex personality - his artistic intuition. Freud's essay The Moses of Michaelangelo is well suited to help with this difficult task because:

(1)  It contains a clear statement of his emotional response to the statue itself.

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