Moses lactans: Evidence in support of the latent mythic value of freud's 1914 "moses of michelangelo",

M.H. Spero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has become impossible to ignore the fact that Freud's landmark essay "The Moses of Michelangelo," however intriguing, is disproportionately flawed and methodologically problematic. Among the list of troubles, recent research emphasizes Freud's apparent misidentification of the actual biblical episode portrayed by Michelangelo, his one-sided emphasis on the harsh, paternal dimension implied by the biblical lawgiver's classical role, and the missed opportunity to develop a theory of aesthetic sublimation. And yet the 1914 text seems powerfully imbued with some sort of hidden, unnamed quality that compels writers to decipher the riddles. As such, it functions like a myth. I confront the latent "breast" or "nursing" thesis that has been suggested by me and other authors recently, and reconsider the evidence for a painful internal maternal representation in Michelangelós earliest work to his last, crossing from Madonna to Moses, and perhaps perceived by Freud. The transformation of Moses into a Madonna may be hypothetical, yet the image is in fact anticipated in two important biblical passages, not brought into previous discussions.,
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)183
JournalAmerican Imago,
Issue number2,
StatePublished - 2010


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