“…And Freud’s question, where does a person’s history come from, could only be answered by accounting for whatever it was that his subject found unavoidably interesting, As an art form and as a lived life, biography was a series of fascinations. Leonardo was both the object of Freud’s fascination…and he was himself a man fascinated. Driven, indeed spellbound, as his paintings apparently showed, by ‘the powerful fascination exerted by the smile…at once fascinating and puzzling’.
…If fascination is the sign of loss, as Freud will say of Leonardo, then it is by the same token an opportunity (if not an invitation) to reconstruct a persuasive narrative history of Leonardo’s life.”
“We are only fascinated, Freud suggests, by something we have already lost. We are only fascinated, in other words, by what is missing – by the past. Fascination is the exhilaration of a mourning that never gives up hope. Leonardo’s obsession with the woman’s enigmatic smile – like the scene of a crime he keeps returning to – is the real enigma, sustained even by Freud’s explanation of it. ‘It was his mother’, Freud writes, ‘that possessed the mysterious smile – the smile he had lost, and that fascinated him so much when he found it again in the Florentine lady.’…”