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Freud, Leonardo and the Anatomy of the Mind

Leonardo da Vinci, “a man who awoke too early in the darkness, while everyone else was asleep”.
Sigmund Freud 

This event takes place at the Freud Museum in London. For more information and bookings, please visit the Freud Museum’s website

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death and the 80th anniversary of Freud’s passing in London at 20 Marsesfield Gardens, the Freud Museum in London hosts two keynote lectures celebrating these two great thinkers and their insatiable exploration of the mind, the results of which continue to resonate today.

Freud, Leonardo and the Enlightenment of Sexuality
By Daniel Orrells
Freud’s essay on Leonardo da Vinci is a remarkable document. While many art historians were – understandably – to take issue with Freud’s psychobiography of the Renaissance artist-scientist, Freud’s account would have a profound impact on how we would subsequently conceptualise the relationship between sexual desire and artistic production and between the homosexual boy and his overbearing mother. This talk examines the Enlightenment origins of Freud’s Leonardo, to excavate how Freud could have painted such a remarkable, influential and provocative portrait.

Daniel Orrells is Reader in Ancient Literature and its Reception at King’s College London. His research explores the influence of ancient ideas about desire on modern notions of sexuality. Freud’s interest in the ancient world is a central focus of his work.

Mona Lisa’s Secret, and the Search for the Mind: from Freud’s Couch to the fMRI Scan
By John Onians
Leonardo was the first artist to search for the mind. His tool was the anatomist’s knife. What he found is visible in Mona Lisa’s face. Freud was also an anatomist, and what he found inspired the theory of psychoanalysis. Now we can investigate the mind using brain-scans, which confirm many of their insights.

John Onians is Emeritus Professor at the University of East Anglia. His concern with art as a worldwide phenomenon and his interest in the brain were both sparked by his teacher, E.H.Gombrich. His latest book is European Art. A Neuroarthistory (2016).

This event is kindly supported by The Warburg Institute – School of Advanced Study and The Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory.


  • Organizzato da: Freud Museum
  • In collaborazione con: ICI London, The Warburg Institute, The Centre for