During his life, Sigmund Freud loved to collect and fill his house with antiquities, and a new exhibition at his London home is highlighting some of the more insightful items in his collection.

The museum normally tries to leave the home as it was when Freud lived there, but that makes it harder to get up close to some of the items, so they’ve “excavated” a small selection from the shadowy corners and put them into the museum’s exhibition space for a closer look.

The exhibition examines the densely packed displays in Freud’s study to explore the layers of meaning, power and significance attached to each object and the reasons why they were of crucial importance to Freud, a compulsive collector.

In total, twenty-five key objects, books and prints, have been removed from the conserved study to be studied in their own right.

Throughout his psychoanalytic writings, Freud repeatedly drew an analogy between the work of the psychoanalyst and that of the archaeologist. The psychoanalyst, in searching for the cause of a symptom, unearths forgotten memories and fantasies, just as the archaeologist, in searching for buried artefacts and hidden cities, digs into the soil.

The exhibition ask how, for example, a print of French neurologist Dr Charcot teaching a lesson on hysteria is linked to Freud’s description of the mind as an archaeological site; how an Etruscan wine jug helps to illustrate the meaning of dreams; how a Roman plaster cast of a walking woman is linked to our desire for authenticity; and how an Athenian water jug points to Freud’s thoughts on the myth of Oedipus.

And unsurprisingly for Freud, there are a lot of phalluses on display.

As an exhibition, it does dig a bit deeper into why Freud collected the objects he filled his house with, looking at how he used them to support his emerging view that illnesses need not manifest as physical symptoms but can be hidden disabilities that need treatment as much as anyone sporting a bandage would.

The exhibition is also supported by a digital archive, accessible through QR codes displayed in the exhibition, for people who want to discover a more detailed analysis ‘under the surface’ of the exhibition.

The exhibition, Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire is at the Freud Museum until 16th July 2023.

Adults: £14 | Concessions: £12 | Young Persons (12-16): £9 | Children under 12: Free


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