Clinical experience and supervision, with his view of the psychoanalytic process as an aesthetic experience in itself, were superimposed on Donald Meltzer’s longstanding interest in aesthetics and dovetailed into his formulation of aesthetic conflict as the key to developmental process. Aesthetic conflict is the tension between ‘the aesthetic impact of the outside of the “beautiful” mother, available to the senses, and the enigmatic inside which must be construed by creative imagination’. Interest, rather than pleasure, marks the beginning of an aesthetic experience. While the mother-and-baby couple provide an aesthetic and interesting experience for the outside observer, within the couple, aesthetic reciprocity links the partners in the form of mutual interest, not just love. In the essay ‘On aesthetic reciprocity’ Meltzer offers a longer and more detailed phantasy about mental origins in prenatal life and the preparation of the foetus for what Bion calls ‘catastrophic change’ – the first of many, and the basis of subsequent development.