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Kavka, J. (1980). Michelangelo's Moses: “Madonna Androgyna” (A Meaning of the Artist's Use of Forefingers). Ann. Psychoanal., 8:291-315.

(1980). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 8:291-315

Michelangelo's Moses: “Madonna Androgyna” (A Meaning of the Artist's Use of Forefingers)

Jerome Kavka, M.D.

No piece of statuary made a stronger impression on Sigmund Freud than Michelangelo's Moses. He regarded this deeply moving work as inscrutable and requiring interpretation as to the basis for its strong effect as well as for the sculptor's intentions (Freud, 1914b, pp. 212-213). The many interpretations that had been offered did not satisfy him.

The statue portrays Moses in a particular posture and with a terrible expression of mingled anger, pain and scorn. It is evidently meant to represent a particular moment in his life, and most writers have connected this with the moment when on his descent from Mount Sinai bearing the Tables of the Law under his arm he catches sight of the backsliding Israelites dancing around their Golden Calf. But at that point interpretations diverge. Freud followed his usual method of delving deeper, not through the general impression of the whole, but through searching for minute and apparently casual clues. These he found by observing, which no one else had, that the Tables were held upside down, and that the right hand, clutching the majestic beard, had some puzzling features in its details [Jones, 1955, p. 346].

Presented before the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society, January 24, 1978. Other versions presented before the Faculty, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, the Denver Psychoanalytic Society, the Departments of Psychiatry of the University of Cincinnati and the University of Wisconsin (Madison), the Department of Psychology of the University of Illinois (Chicago Circle), and the St.

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