3007, Athena, 1st or 2nd century A.D.; after a Greek original from the 5th century B.C.
Dimensions: h. 4 1/8 in 10.4 cm
This bronze statuette depicts Athena, goddess of war. She wears a Corinthian style helmet with a long crest and an aegis (breastplate) with a Medusa head, a typical attribute of Athena. In her one hand she holds a decorated patera or libation bowl, and in her raised left hand she would have held a spear, now lost. The overall style of the figure is Roman, however, its contrapposto pose is classical Greek, suggesting the influence of a fifth century B.C. Greek work.
This object was one of Freud’s favourites and was one of only three items he chose to have smuggled out of Vienna in 1938, when his entire antiquities collection was threatened. His interest in the Athena figure is also demonstrated in a 1922 manuscript in which he discusses the sexual symbolism of the decapitated Medusa on Athena’s breastplate. In this manuscript he compares decapitation to castration and the decapitated gorgon head to female genitals, which lack a phallus.