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Rudnytsky, P.L. (2003). Preface. Am. Imago, 60(1):1-7.

(2003). American Imago, 60(1):1-7


Peter L. Rudnytsky

In 1914, in the third volume of Imago, there appeared an anonymous essay, “The Moses of Michelangelo,” the authorship of which Freud acknowledged a decade later when he reprinted it in his Gesammelte Schriften. That this seminal contribution to psychoanalytic aesthetics was originally published in the journal that is our illustrious forebear makes it especially fitting that the present issue of American Imago should be devoted to the theme of “Freud's Michelangelo.”

Our first essay, by Mary Bergstein, takes up not Moses but a much less well-known connection between Freud and Michelangelo, namely, a photograph dated about 1912 showing Freud seated with a framed reproduction of Masolino and Masaccio's The Healing of the Cripple and the Raising of Tabitha and a reduced copy of Michelangelo's sculpture, The Dying Slave, which he had viewed at the Louvre during his sojourn in Paris in 1885-86. Like the Moses, this statue was initially destined for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Bergstein, an accomplished scholar of Renaissance art as well as of psychoanalysis, places the photograph in the tradition of sixteenth-century paintings of collectors, in which the represented objects symbolize personal attributes of the sitter. Bergstein remarks that the “heroic nudity” of Michelangelo's figure defied the Jewish prohibition on figurative art, and the photograph thus captures the tension between Freud's Jewish identity and his passionate devotion to the classical tradition, which had been revived in the Renaissance. Seeing in the somnolent, nude Slave “a personification of the unconscious mind,” particularly during adolescence, Bergstein proposes that Michelangelo's statue manifests “the signature concept of Freud's psychoanalytic system.”


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