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Leonardo da Vinci: Sagittal section of the coitus, pen and ink, 1493 or 1500.

This remarkable drawing is part of Leonardo's project to depict all aspects of human life from its conception until its expiration. The top annotation (as always written as a mirror image from right to left) reads: "I expose to men the origin of their first, and perhaps second, reason for existing." Although Leonardo made his own dissections, much of Galen prevails in his depiction of nerves and genitalia. Some researchers suggest that here is also a reference to Hippocrates' view of the human semen as having cerebral origin.

Freud mentioned this drawing in his "Eine Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci" (Gesammelte Werke bd VIII, 1909-1913). It is doubtful, Freud says, whether Leonardo had ever embraced a woman, and he quotes R. Reitler (from Internat. Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse IV, 1916/17) how inadequate Leonardo's rendering of the female body was, how there is only one duct in the breast and how the milk seems to emanate from the lymphic cisterna chyli. Reitler also questions the position of the couple. Both when eating and making love people prefer to lie down, he says. But the biggest error, according to Reitler, and Freud not only quotes this but also provides a retouched reproduction of the drawing to prove the point more clearly, is the position of the feet: "Der Fuß des Mannes sollte nämlich der rechte sein; denn da Leonardo den Zeugungsakt in Form eines anatomischen Sagittaldurchschnittes darstellte, so müßte ja der linke männliche Fuß oberhalb der Bildfläche gedacht werden, und umgekehrt sollte aus demselben Grunde der weibliche Fuß der linken Seite angehören. Tatsächlich aber hat Leonardo weiblich und männlich vertauscht." Since this is a sagittal section there should be a right foot belonging to the man and a left foot belonging to the woman. But obviously Lionardo confused male and female, Reitler claims, and he also mentions the feminine look of the man's head.

Freud does not comment much on Reitler's analysis but points to Leonardo's homosexuality and says that he sublimates his libido into an urge for science: "Wenn wir das Zusammentreffen des übermächtigen Forschertriebes bei Leonardo mit der Verkümmerung seines Sexuallebens erwägen, welches sich auf sogenannte ideelle Homosexualität einschränkt, werden wir geneigt sein, ihn als einen Musterfall unseres dritten Typus in Anspruch zu nehmen. Daß es ihm nach infantiler Betätigung der Wißbegierde im Dienste sexueller Interessen dann gelungen ist, den größeren Anteil seiner Libido in Forscherdrang zu sublimieren, das wäre der Kern und das Geheimnis seines Wesens."

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