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Goldsmith, G.N. (1992). Freud's Aesthetic Response to Michelangelo's Moses. Ann. Psychoanal., 20:245-269.

(1992). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 20:245-269

Freud's Aesthetic Response to Michelangelo's Moses

Gary N. Goldsmith, M.D.

“For no piece of statuary has ever made a stronger impression on me than this.” With these words near the beginning of his anonymously published essay “The Moses of Michelangelo,” Freud asserts his response to the sculpture and conveys his reason for seeking out the intentions of its maker. Stating that “some turn of mind in me rebels against being moved by a thing without knowing why I am thus affected and what it is that affects me,” Freud proceeds in the essay to explore the mystery of why this statue moves him so deeply. However, he seeks the clue to his aesthetic response not in an introspective search guided by his personal reaction but externally, through an attempt to locate and define the intentions of the artist, Michelangelo, believing that

what grips us so powerfully can only be the artist's intention, in so far as he has succeeded in expressing it in his work and in getting us to understand it. I realize that this cannot be merely a matter of intellectual comprehension; what he aims at is to awaken in us the same emotional attitude, the same mental constellation as that which in him produced the impetus to create [Freud, 1914ap. 212, emphasis mine].

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