Freud’s Trip to Orvieto


352 pages

Trade Cloth

List Price US $26.99
ISBN: 9781942658269


ISBN: 9781942658276

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“[An] unusual meditation on sex, death, art, and Jewishness. . . . Weber weaves in musings on his own sexual and religious experiences, creating a freewheeling psychoanalytic document whose approach would surely delight the doctor, even if its conclusions might surprise him.”

New Yorker

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“A dramatic and compelling biographical narrative.”


“A poignant memoir of Weber’s childhood, a revealing portrait of his intellectual development and a incisive study on masculinity and Judaism. . . . [Freud’s Trip to Orvieto] pulls together a series of elegant portraits, freely combining art history with memoir and psychoanalysis. . . . It strikes one as truthful, clear and revealing.”

Art Newspaper

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“[Weber’s] vivid analysis brings faraway frescoes and lesser-known paintings into vigorous reality, and his idea that Freud suppressed Signorelli’s name because of his reaction to the work’s homoeroticism makes perfect sense when you explore the paintings with him.”

Washington Independent Review of Books

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“[Weber] captivates the reader with this wonderful psychological mystery. . . . Sometimes a molehill is just a molehill, but the process of making it into a mountain is both enthralling and illuminating in Weber’s hands.”

Winnipeg Free Press

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“With an amalgam of relevant history, stunning art, and deft psychology, Weber brings new insights on the life and work of a cultural dynamo.”

Library Journal (starred review)

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“This witty, art-savvy project meanders in all manner of delightful directions.”

Foreword Reviews

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“A seminal study that is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking.”

Midwest Book Review

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Freud’s Trip to Orvieto is at once profound and wonderfully diverse, and as gripping as any detective story. Nicholas Fox Weber mixes psychoanalysis, art history, and the personal with an intricacy and spiritedness that Freud himself would have admired.”

John Banville, author of The Sea and The Blue Guitar

“This is an ingenious and fascinating reading of Freud’s response to Signorelli’s frescoes at Orvieto. It is also a meditation on Jewish identity, and on masculinity, memory, and the power of the image. It is filled with intelligence, wit, and clear-eyed analysis not only of the paintings themselves, but how we respond to them in all their startling sexuality and invigorating beauty.”

Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and Nora Webster

“This sui generis volume displays the author’s polymathic talents at their exhilarating best. Not content with his role as critic, autobiographist, analysand, Freud scholar, Bauhaus curator, textual sleuth, and reflective Talmudist, Weber infuses familiar territory with freshness and vitality. His journey starts at Signorelli’s Orvieto and Freud’s legendary moment of forgetting. Via Breuer, Solnit, Sartre, Klee, Zweig, Raphael, Titian, as well as his personal inamoratas, we are granted new visions from the art and psychoanalytic worlds. Breathless but still upright, the reader understands better what it means to be a child, a parent, and a living, desiring, failing, dying, struggling, and ultimately triumphant human.”

Jeremy Holmes, author of John Bowlby and Attachment Theory and The Therapeutic Imagination

After a visit to the cathedral at Orvieto in Italy, Sigmund Freud deemed Luca Signorelli’s frescoes the greatest artwork he’d ever encountered; yet, a year later, he couldn’t recall the artist’s name. When the name came back to him, the images he had so admired vanished from his mind’s eye. This is known as the “Signorelli parapraxis” in the annals of Freudian psychoanalysis and is a famous example from Freud’s own life of his principle of repressed memory. What was at the bottom of this? There have been many theories on the subject, but Nicholas Fox Weber is the first to study the actual Signorelli frescoes for clues.

What Weber finds in these extraordinary Renaissance paintings provides unexpected insight into this famously confounding incident in Freud’s biography. As he sounds the depths of Freud’s feelings surrounding his masculinity and Jewish identity, Weber is drawn back into his own past, including his memories of an adolescent obsession with a much older woman.

Freud’s Trip to Orvieto is an intellectual mystery with a very personal, intimate dimension. Through rich illustrations, Weber evokes art’s singular capacity to provoke, destabilize, and enchant us, as it did Freud, and awaken our deepest memories, fears, and desires.

Foreword Reviews “Inspiring Gift Books” selection

Excerpt from Freud’s Trip to Orvieto

Read an interview with Nicholas Fox Weber about Freud’s Trip to Orvieto and his own adventures in psychoanalysis in the Vienna Psychoanalyst.