What a Renaissance Artist Taught Freud

In the small Italian town of Orvieto in 1897, Sigmund Freud had a revelation. In the town’s cathedral, before a depiction of the Last Judgement by the Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli, the 41-year-old psychoanalyst felt he had found “the greatest” depiction of the theme he had ever seen. The intense and violent fresco, which carries an odd sexual energy, was seared into his mind. Yet upon his departure, “to his immense frustration, Freud could not recall the name of the artist,” writes Nicholas Fox Weber, in his new book, Freud’s Trip to Orvieto (Bellevue Literary Press).

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