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Bremer, R. (1976). Freud and Michelangelo's Moses. Am. Imago, 33(1):60-75.

(1976). American Imago, 33(1):60-75

Freud and Michelangelo's Moses

Rudy Bremer

Much has been written about Michelangelo's famous statue of Moses, and among the most interesting monographs on the subject is the article published anonymously by Sigmund Freud in Imago. Freud's analysis of previously disregarded details of the statue is highly ingenious, and the whole monograph breathes the spirit of a meticulous piece of critical research. But alas, Freud's whole interpretation of the Moses-statue seems based on several fundamental misconceptions. His use of irrelevant passages from the Bible leads him into finding numerous problems in the statue that have no basis in reality; they are, in fact, problems created by Freud himself. He then proceeds to solve these problems again with arguments of the utmost ingenuity; but in the course of these arguments, he is forced to misrepresent the statue to such an extent that his final interpretation bears hardly any relevance to the work of art he is discussing.

Yet, the blame for Freud's most serious mistake does not lie with Freud alone; Michelangelo's Moses-statue was some four centuries old when Freud's monograph appeared, and in those four hundred years, not one art historian had, to the best of Freud's knowledge (and mine), been able to tell us precisely what the statue is intended to represent; not one Renaissance scholar seems to have succeeded where Freud failed. Moreover, no art historian or iconologist since Freud has succeeded where Freud and his predecessors failed.

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