The Freud Museum

Photo Library

Cylinder seals were developed in southern Mesopotamia as a more efficient successor to stamp seals. Such seals were used to mark ownership and authorize documents. They often have a hole drilled through the centre so that they could be hung from a cord around the neck, making them both utilitarian and decorative.
This seal is made up of two registers. The upper portion depicts a man protecting his herd from predation, a duty that fell to the leader of a community. The lower register is most likely a scene of an agricultural ceremony. Two longer haired female figures, presumably priestesses, oversee three smaller figures who carry sacks of grain. As farming was main source of subsistence, scenes of animal husbandry and agrarian festivals were popular subjects in Near Eastern art of this period.


During the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries B.C. in Babylon, cylinder seals, which acted as a signature, became more necessary due to the increase in legal, administrative and scribal activity.
The scene on this seal depicts an offering to the Babylonian bearded sun god, represented by his animal attribute and the saw-toothed blade that he uses to cut through the eastern mountains at dawn, bringing daylight. A king presents him with an animal offering, while a suppliant goddess with raised arms intervenes on behalf of the owner of the seal. On the far left stands a priest with a cup and small bucket in his hands. Slight traces of an inscription are visible, and suggest erasure, possibly by a second owner.
Seals are generally carved in reverse, and are only properly viewed when rolled out. Freud had about twenty cylinder seals in his collection, and he occasionally enjoyed making clay impressions with them.


This small figurine is typical of a Middle Bronze Age group of figures, both male and female, found in the Orontes Valley in central Syria. Gender is differentiated by proportions of the body, headdress, and in some cases by breasts or pubic triangles on female figures. This figure is distinguishable as female due to the proportion of the hips and the elaborate headdress with piercings, which may have once had metal rings through them.
Experts are unsure of the exact function of such figures. However, they are unlikely to be fertility figures due to their lack of exaggerated sexual anatomy. Many figurines of this type have been found in domestic settings in close association with model beds, chariots, and carts. This suggests that the Orontes Valley figures, including the one in Freud’s collection, may be ornaments or playthings.


The fragmentary statue depicts a mother-son dyad. On the right is the deified Amenophis I, holding a flail, a common attribute to depictions of Egyptian pharaohs. His companion is his mother, Ahmose-Nofretiri, who wears a vulture headdress. Ahmose-Nofretiri was important to Amenophis I’s rule as both his mother and the God’s Wife of Amun, a prominent political and religious position occupied only by queens. After their deaths, the two were worshipped as the divine patrons of the necropolis in Thebes, and were especially popular among the necropolis workers, who lived in a village nearby.
The pair was buried in a shared tomb, built initially for Ahmose-Nofretiri and expanded for her son. This tomb was excavated by Howard Carter from 1913 to 1914, and Freud, who often read excavation reports, certainly would have known of its discovery. Freud’s small statue probably comes from a domestic shrine. Freud may have been intrigued by the mother-son burial arrangement and its connection to his own Oedipus complex theory.


This bronze head, broken from a hollow-cast statue, is the god Osiris. Osiris, originally a fertility god, eventually became known as ruler of the underworld and god of resurrection. Just as the pharaoh was seen as the embodiment of Horus in life, he was associated with Osiris after his death. This connection between Osiris and the afterlife was later applied to all Egyptians, making him an extremely popular deity. Osiris’s affiliation with the life cycle may have made him particularly of interest to Freud, who was deeply fascinated with the Egyptian beliefs about life and death.
Freud’s bronze head is identified as Osiris by his usual atef crown, which is the white crown of Upper Egypt and red plumes. A now headless uraeus, the sacred cobra of Egypt, adorns the crown. The head would have been further decorated with a beard and inlaid eyes. Because of its rich decoration, the head was probably a cult figure or an offering to the god from a wealthy worshipper.


Although damaged, this New Kingdom statue is finely carved, with clear delineation of ears, eyebrows, and cosmetics around the eyes. It depicts a pharaoh, possibly Amenophis III, wearing the nemes head cloth surmounted by the double crown of united Upper and Lower Egypt. A falcon representing the sky, sun and war god, Horus, sits behind the crown with its wings bent in protection. Such a physical representation of the god’s protection is unusual.
Amenophis III, father of Akhenaten and grandfather of Tutankhamun, was one of the most powerful kings in the 18th Dynasty


This bronze statue is of Imhotep, a deified statesman from the 3rd Dynasty (2705-2640 B.C.). Although today he is best known as the architect of the Stepped Pyramid for King Djoser at Saqqara, in his own time he was greatly regarded as a sage. Later in antiquity he became known as a healer and magician, and was fully deified as the son of Ptah, god of craftsmen. Upon the arrival of the Greeks, he became associated with Asklepios, the Greek god of healing. Freud refers to Asklepios in context with the healing power of dreams, and would have been aware of Imhotep’s connection to his Greek equivalent. 
Although it bears no inscription, this figure is identified as Imhotep by its close fitting cap and unrolled scroll of papyrus. It is seated, and would have originally been seated in a throne.


Amon-Re is depicted here in human form with his characteristic crown with plumes and large solar disk. Initially just a creator god, Amun, he was later associated with the sun god, Re. Amon-Re was one of the most important Egyptian gods. As a result, the king became known as the son of Amun and the royal mother as the wife of Amun.
Two huge temples dedicated to Amun stand in Luxor and Karnak, near Thebes, the city of Amun. Other monuments to this god are spread throughout Egypt and its frontiers, demonstrating his prominence and popularity. When the Greeks arrived in Egypt, they equated Amon-Re with Zeus, their king of the gods.


This bronze figure portrays the Egyptian god Ptah, who is presented with his usual attributes: close-fitted cap, broad collar, and square-edged false beard. His hands extend from within his robes, grasping a sceptre. Ptah was a local god to the city of Memphis, a royal residence and the administrative centre of Egypt. The Memphites believed that Ptah, the god of craftsmen, had created the world through thought and speech alone. In Greece he was associated with Hephaistos, god of craftsmen and the forge.
The green colouring on the figure, called a patina, was produced by the oxidation of bronze over time. The makers of this statue used the lost wax technique, a process for casting bronze by which a wax model is carved and then covered in clay. As molten bronze is poured into the clay mould, the wax melts away and is “lost”.


In Egypt the sphinx was believed to be a guardian and was closely associated with the pharaohs, as is evidenced by the great sphinx of Giza that was built to protect the pyramid of King Chephren (4th Dynasty, 2640-2520 B.C.). With the body of a lion and the head of a man, the sphinx combines brute force and human intellect, making it an intimidating adversary to any attackers.
Although male figures are slightly more common, sphinxes were represented as both male and female. This sphinx is female. The loop on the back of the neck indicates that it was meant to be hung by string, perhaps as an ornament to ward off evil spirits.


Despite the now worn-through suspension ring, this vulture amulet was probably used as a votive offering. The Egyptians associated vultures with several gods. Mut, the Egyptian word for mother, is represented with a vulture symbol in hieroglyphics. The goddess Mut, one of the maternal guardians of the pharaoh, is typically depicted as a woman with a vulture headdress. Because of this, Freud’s vulture is more likely Nekhbut of Elkab, the principal tutelary goddess of Upper Egypt, who is represented by an actual vulture rather than a headdress.
In one of Freud’s texts, he analyzed the Egyptian concept of a vulture as a symbol of motherhood, and the androgynous features Mut sometimes took on.


Here the goddess Isis is represented with her vulture headdress surmounted by the horned disk of her close associate, the cow-headed goddess Hathor. Isis, goddess of life and fertility, is above all associated with wifely and motherly virtues. After the murder of her husband Osiris, Isis hid among the marshes and gave birth to Horus, protecting him so that he may one day avenge his father’s death. Horus is depicted here as his child form, Harpocrates. As is standard in Egyptian art, he appears to be a miniature adult, his youth instead revealed through his nakedness.
As mother of Horus, Isis was also mother to the pharaoh, which boosted her popularity especially in later periods and under Roman rule. Many see the form of Isis suckling Horus, or Isis lactans, as a predecessor of the Christian Madonna and child image.
This bronze statue was a favourite of Freud’s, and it had a special place on his desk. He bought it from Robert Lustig who acquired it from a country shopkeeper selling it as junk.


At the top this round-topped stele bears the winged solar disk of Horus, the sun god. Below this, on the main register, is a scene depicting a king offering the hieroglyphic symbol for field to four gods: the sky god Amun with two vertical plumes crowning his head; his consort Mut wearing the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt; Khonsu, the moon god and son of Amun and Mut, wearing a crescent and new moon orb; and the falcon-headed Horus of Mesen, a solar deity.
From the inscription on the lowest register we know that the king is Ptolemy, the general of Alexander the Great who took control of Egypt after Alexander’s death, later declaring himself pharaoh. Around this time Ptolemy, in an attempt to gain the favour of his new, non-Greek subjects, returned large tracts of confiscated land to the native Egyptian priests.


Thoth, the ibis-headed god of the moon and intellect, was often represented as a seated baboon. The Egyptians believed the baboon was the spirit of Thoth. The orb crowning his head represents the crescent moon. After death, the Egyptians believed that Thoth, because of his scribal duties, was in charge of the scale in the Weighing of the Heart, a ceremony in which the deeds and virtues of the deceased were judged. This small statue was probably an offering during the Classical Period, when Thoth increased in popularity due to his association with the Greek messenger god, Hermes.
Freud would have been interested in the conflict between animal instinct and human intellect in Thoth’s representation as a baboon. In much of his work, Freud sought to examine the influence of instincts, such as sexuality and aggression, on the expression of intellect.


This falcon-headed figure is a nineteenth century forgery, probably meant to be Horus, god of the sky and protector of the pharaoh. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud analyzes a dream from his childhood involving falcon-headed men. Freud would have come across depictions of Egyptian deities in his father’s first-edition copy of the Philippson’s Bible, which contained German and Hebrew texts along with over 600 images, several of which had Egyptian subjects.
Forgeries of this type are still manufactured today in Egypt, and make use of traditional methods and sometimes ancient materials. Forgeries of ancient Egyptian artefacts go back to the seventeenth century, but a great number of them appear in the nineteenth century after Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798, and the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs by J.F. Champollion in 1822. Tourism to Egypt became increasingly popular during this period, bringing many false artefacts back to Europe.


Typically represented nude with a close fitted cap, Pataikos is a dwarf divinity. Pataikos, the Greek translation of Ptah-Sokar, is in Egypt considered a manifestation of Ptah, the local creator god of Memphis. For the Memphites, he was a common household deity, and was often the subject of amulets like Freud’s.
In ancient Egypt, dwarfs were a part of both religious and court life, sometimes achieving relatively high status. The Pataikos amulet in Freud’s collection is made of Egyptian faience, which consists of a ground quartz core and a blue-green alkaline glaze.


This sunken relief depicts a court official with arms raised in adoration, a typical scene found on the doors jambs of tomb chapels. The relief displays the Amarna art style of the reigns of Kings Akhenaten and Horemheb. Under the reign of Akhenaten, Egyptian religion changed to worshipping Aten above all other gods, making Akhenaten extremely unpopular and seen as a heretic. With the new religion came a new art style characterized by less idealized, but still highly stylized, figures.
The Freud relief, however, is a modern forgery. Many of the details do not quite match Amarna characteristics such as the proportions of the body and the wig. Both the back and left side have been cut in modern times, and are too neatly done to be from blocks hastily reduced in size for the art market. This high quality fake may have been done by the Berlin Forger, Oxan Aslanian, who was working around the time Freud was acquiring objects.


This fragmentary figure of a woman was once part of a group statue, probably a pair meant to represent her and her husband. Such a statue would have been used for funerary purposes. Small mortuary statues were made in mass quantities and the owner’s name was inscribed or painted on after purchase. They thus represent an ideal rather than an individual portrait. The finely-modeled, ageless face with broad nose, wide-set eyes, and tripartite wig resembles portraits of kings and queens, suggesting that the general populace sought to imitate royal style.


This heart scarab was once used Egyptian funerary rituals. The scarab beetle, which lays its eggs in dead matter from which life later springs forth, was connected with the concept of rebirth and resurrection. As a result, scarab beetles had a special place in mortuary ceremonies, often in the form of amulets which would be wrapped within the bandages around the heart during mummification.
In the afterlife, ancient Egyptians believed that there was a Weighing of the Heart ceremony in which the deeds and virtues of the deceased were measured, deciding whether he would go to the underworld with Osiris or be thrown to ‘the Eater,’ a composite monster, to die a second death. The scarab would intervene in the Weighing of the Heart, preventing the heart from testifying against itself. The heart was weighed against the feather of Maat, goddess of truth and justice.
The underside of Freud’s heart scarab has seven lines of hieroglyphic text that identify the deceased along with lines from the Book of the Dead.


Figurines of mummies, called shabtis, started to be manufactured towards the end of the Middle Kingdom, and were originally intended as substitutes for the deceased. As time went on, they became regarded as deputies who carried out menial tasks in the afterlife for the deceased. The earliest shabtis, like this one, were carved in stone, but as time went on various other materials, such as wood, bronze, glass and faience, were used.
Although the text on the lower part of the shabti has faded, we know the identity of the owner by an identical figure, located in Bologna. The hieroglyphs have excerpts from the Book of the Dead.


Unusual because of its composite materials, this shabti figure’s body is made of limestone while the head is gessoed and painted wood. It also would have had wooden feet and crossed arms, now lost. His elaborate costume, with pleats and apron, was common on shabtis of the late 18th and 19th Dynasty. Across his apron are several lines of text that identify the owner as Djehutyemheb, ‘overseer of cattle in the Temple of Re.’
The apron hieroglyphs also contain an excerpt from the Book of the Dead, an Egyptian funerary text that consisted of over two hundred ‘spells’ to aid the deceased in their journey through the afterlife.


Made of pale green Egyptian faience, this shabti holds several farming implements: a pick, a hoe, and a basket rope. Shabtis such as this one were intended to carry out menial tasks for the deceased in the afterlife and thus were suited with tools.
The hieroglyphic text on the lower part of the figure has an excerpt from the Book of the Dead, and names the owner as ‘the god’s father Imhotep, born of Bastetirdis,’ a priest’s title. Freud’s collection also contains an almost identical shabti of Imhotep’s brother.


This wooden falcon figure probably adorned a coffin lid or canopic box, which would have contained the internal organs of the deceased. During the mummification process, organs were embalmed separately from the body, and placed in their own boxes. The falcon represents Sokar, lord of Rostau, the entrance to the underworld. Sokar was a funerary deity important to the necropolis of Memphis, and was closely associated with the Memphite creator god, Ptah.
Freud’s figure has a mortise hole on the top of its head, indicating that it may have had an attached headpiece, perhaps a double plume with a solar disk, an attribute commonly found on such figures.


This reliquary is in fact a still-sealed coffin for a sacrificed animal. Certain animals were held sacred to ancient Egyptians because of their association with particular deities. The falcon represents Horus, the sky god, and, with the double crown of a united Egypt, illustrates his victory over his father’s murderer, Seth.
In later dynasties, animal cults, such as the one dedicated to falcons, became increasingly popular and even had their own priesthoods. Pilgrims could purchase the ritually sacrificed and mummified remains of an animal, placed within a coffin, as offerings to a god. Thousands of such remains were interred in extensive underground galleries.


This figure, with tripartite wig and colourfully painted details, probably once perched on a rounded wooden funeral stele, a type identified with the Ptolemaic period. The bird does not represent a deity, but instead the individuality, or ba, of the deceased. Ancient Egyptians believed a person divided into three elements at death: the ba, the body, and the life force, called the ka. Unlike the body and the ka, the ba could take the form of a bird and return to the land of the living, partaking in the earthly pleasures it left behind.


This wooden mask was once pegged on to an anthropoid coffin. Starting in the Early Dynastic Period (2965-2705 B.C.), coffins became important to Egyptian culture as the eternal home and protection of the deceased. Originally just small boxes, coffins developed into anthropoid shapes and finally several nested coffins, such as the famous King Tutankhamun’s.
Over time the colours of Freud’s mask have darkened, but the face was once a creamy yellow. The dowel peg for a beard is still intact, identifying the mummy as male.


This painted mummy covering, made to dress the legs of a mummy, is made of cartonnage, a type of board made from plaster and papyrus or cloth fibres. During Ptolemaic times, such coverings consisted of separate pieces for mask, collar, frontal panels and a foot case.
The hieroglyphic text down the centre calls for the aid of Anubis, the dog-headed god, on behalf of the deceased, identified by the text as a woman. Anubis had assisted Isis in embalming her husband, Osiris, who had been cut into fourteen pieces by his murderer.
The upper vignettes depict the four sons of Horus, minor deities in charge of protecting the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver of the deceased. The lower vignettes illustrate Osiris, god of the underworld, on one side with Isis and on the other with her sister Nephthys. All figures have green skin and red costume.


Freud’s collection has two pieces of mummy wrappings, which, due to their similar quality, are possibly from the same mummy. Each is illustrated with parts of the Book of the Dead, a group of spells and illustrations meant to help the deceased navigate their way to the underworld. One bandage, mostly pictorial, portrays offerings being presented before Osiris, god of the underworld. Osiris sits in his throne, wearing his identifying atef crown and holding a crook and flail, two symbols of kingship. The other wrapping has excerpts from the first three chapters of the Book of the Dead and accompanying illustrations depicting a procession to a tomb and the deceased worshipping a deity.

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Made during the Roman Period, this portrait depicts an aging Egyptian man and was intended for his mummy. Portraits of this type were produced from the first to the fourth century A.D., and were bound over the face of an embalmed body, adapting Roman artistic style to Egyptian religious practice. An example of this type of portrait has been found with a frame, suggesting that they may have been painted and put on display before their final use as a mummy covering.
Freud acquired this portrait from Austrian dealer Theodor Graf, who had been connected to several excavations in Egypt, including one that unearthed a large number of Roman style mummy portraits. Many of Graf’s mummy portraits, along with the one in Freud’s collection, were put in an exhibition in Berlin in 1889, which due to its popularity travelled throughout Europe and even across the Atlantic to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.


This stirrup jar, named for the shape of its handles, is from Mycenae. Flourishing in the second millennium B.C., the Mycenaean culture predates Hellenistic Greece and is the source of many Greek myths. In the 1870s, the capital, Mycenae, was discovered by Heinrich Schliemann, a businessman turned amateur archaeologist of whom Freud was a great admirer. Vases similar to the one in Freud’s collection were unearthed in great numbers from Mycenae, and are typical of the culture.


A seemingly legless rider merges as one with his horse in this Archaic Greek terracotta figure. Freud uses horseback riding as a metaphor for the ego riding the forces of the id, and surely would have found this object interesting. Figures of this type, manufactured in Boeotia in the sixth century B.C., were common grave goods, meant to comfort the dead. Horses and horsemen were especially popular, perhaps to attest to the war or hunting skills of the deceased.


This Corinthian vase is an alabastron, a type of vessel used for storing perfume. The main subject is a winged goddess of animals, a subject possibly derived from Near Eastern mother goddesses with whom the Greeks associated Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Corinthian vase painting often had illustrations of animals, both real and imagined, borrowed from Near Eastern motifs. Grasping the necks of two swans, the goddess wears an embroidered tunic and a headdress called a polos. The style of the painting on the alabastron, with its surface completely covered in a combination of representational and abstract pattern, is typical of early Corinthian pottery.


This lekythos, used for storing oil or perfume, depicts two warriors on horseback and two dogs. The warriors are female, probably Amazons, which is obvious by their lack of beards. Also, the white slip that would have covered their skin, which would definitely distinguish them as female, is faintly visible in places.
The work is attributed to the Gela Painter due to the lettering throughout the background of the scene and the close attention to animal detail while human figures are done with less care.


A sphinx sits on a pedestal flanked by two seated and two standing elders, all leaning on sticks, attesting to their age. The artist, probably from the Haimon Painter workshop, uses the black figure technique, a type of vase painting in which the silhouettes of the figures is painted in black and then details are incised with a sharp tool. The sketch-like quality of the patterns and small-headed elongated figures are characteristic of the Haimon Painter and his workshop.


The main subject of this hydria is Herakles being attended to by a satyr, identified by his tail and pointy ears. Herakles wears his lion skin, reclining while the satyr offers him a drink. A laurel wreath wraps around the shoulders of the vase. This hydria is a perfect example of red figure painting, a technique in which the ground is painted black, leaving the figures the red colour of the pottery so details can be painted instead of incised, as in black figure painting.


This lekythos, done in red-figure painting, depicts a winged woman chasing a youth. The woman is the goddess of the dawn, Eos, who was said to be very amorous and was often depicted chasing a youth, either Kephalos or Tithonos. In this case the youth is probably Tithonos, shown carrying a lyre. According to mythology, Eos persuaded Zeus to grant Tithonos immortality, but forgot to ask for eternal youth for the boy. Tithonos thus aged and withered over time, tragically unable to die.


White-Ground lekythoi, such as the one in Freud’s collection, were intended to hold perfumed oil given as gifts to the deceased. The ground, done in a white slip, allows for more colour and detail. However, white-ground painting is also very fragile and wears easily since much of the colouring was applied after firing. Because they were meant to be grave offerings, white-ground lekythoi were often decorated with funerary scenes.
This particular lekythos depicts grave stele flanked by a youth and a woman. Although it can be difficult to distinguish mourner from deceased, the woman, holding a basket of fillets, is most likely bringing offerings to the grave of the youth. This work is attributed to the Reed Painter based on the woman’s head, the way the stele is depicted, and the manner of the youth.


In Greek mythology, the Sphinx, half woman and half lion, was a dangerous monster who killed those who could not answer her riddle: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?” Oedipus correctly answered Man, who crawls as a baby, then walks on two feet, and uses a cane in old age. This sphinx figure, with delicately curved wings, was originally covered in a white slip that has since worn off.


The scene on this hydria illustrates the legend of Oedipus and the Sphinx. Holding two spears, Oedipus sits facing the Sphinx. Behind the Sphinx is a youth, probably a companion of Oedipus, who also holds a spear. The Sphinx’s skin is white, revealing her gender, while her wings are left the red colour of the clay.
Freud’s love of antiquity is obvious in his works. The Oedipus complex, one of his most well known theories, is an ode to his classical education


This figurine represents one of the many small statues found in domestic settings, sanctuaries and graves at Tanagra, a Greek city that flourished in the fourth and third centuries B.C. Such figures were mass produced, but are still important because they give insight into daily life and demonstrate Hellenistic interest in individualism rather than idealism.
This statuette was made using a two piece mould, and the base was produced separately. The woman holds a fan and wears a sunhat, clearly prepared for the Mediterranean sun.


These terracotta heads were broken from statuettes of a man, and a woman, distinguished by her head covering. Their features are extremely exaggerated and grotesque, demonstrating Hellenistic interest in physical deformities, the same interest that is seen in contemporary art and literature. Although thousands of such figures have been found in Greece, their exact use is unclear. They may represent dwarfs or persons with other deformities that were curiosities in Hellenistic courts.

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This marble head was originally part of a high relief sculpture, probably a grave relief. Like white-ground lekythoi, grave sculptures depicted both mourner and deceased, either of which this head may represent. It is made of Pentelic marble; the same type of marble used for the Parthenon and many other Athenian sculptures and architecture. This head is a perfect example of classical idealization with its perfected beauty and calm expression.


This small figure of Eros, with a loop for hanging, was meant to be suspended in flight. In Greek mythology, Eros is the god of love and lust and the son of Aphrodite. This object is most likely from Tanagra, an archaeological site where such sculptures were mass produced and unearthed in large quantities from grave sites.


Although this terracotta figurine of Eros, god of love and lust, is now worn, it was once brightly painted. His skin was covered in white slip and his wings were applied with gold leaf. His mantle, drawn up to expose his genitals, was painted blue, and his hair was red. The figure may be a later copy or a fake, but if genuine, it was most likely manufactured in Boeotia.


This large Eros, sculpted in flight and originally covered in white slip, probably carried a musical instrument in his hands. Traces of blue and gold remain on the wings of Eros and there is red in his hair.
Freud identified the basic life instinct as Eros, and he said that the evolution of civilization was a result of the struggle between Eros and Death. Freud’s collection has six figurines of Eros, with this one being the largest.


This figure, with short tunic and windswept mantle, is of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt and wild animals. She is identified by her short hunting dress and boots with folded over flaps. Often depicted with arrows, Artemis, like Athena with her spear, is a virgin goddess of aggression. Freud would have been interested in her masculinized, androgynous image and its connection to sexuality and aggression.


This figure of a warrior, with its helmet and long crest, would have once held a spear. Small warrior figurines of this type were often placed in sanctuaries as dedications, presumably in hope of or in thanks for victory. This object had a special place on Freud’s desk in both Vienna and London.


Thousands of Etruscan mirrors have been unearthed in Italy. They were an important mark of status for Etruscan women, and were often decorated in scenes of female adornment or mythology, especially involving the goddess of love. Most mirrors have been discovered in tombs, suggesting that for women adornment was considered important in both life and death. The verso of these mirrors was undecorated and highly polished to reflect the image of its owner.
The scene on Freud’s mirror depicts four figures. In the centre is an armed warrior with his arm around an almost nude woman. On the left of the pair is another warrior and on the right is Athena, goddess of war. Apart from Athena, the identity of the figures is unclear. However, they may represent the abduction of Helen by Theseus or the recovery of Helen after the sack of Troy by her husband, Menelaus, both of which are myths found on other examples of Etruscan mirrors.


Bronze vessels of this type, called balsamariums, were made to hold perfume or oil and are commonly found in Etruscan tombs. They often take the form of a head, or as in this case, two faces joined at the sides. The faces represented are of a satyr and a maenad, the male and female followers of Dionysos, god of wine. Satyrs and maenads are mischievous and amorous creatures. The maenad is an image of idealized beauty, while the satyr, with his snout-like nose and slanting eyebrows, is the epitome of ugliness. Combined on a single vessel, these two faces make an interesting juxtaposition: male and female, beautiful and ugly.


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.


This statue, probably from a Roman province in France or the Rhineland, is of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Nude from the waist up, she holds her hair in one hand and a mirror in the other.
Venus’s steady gaze into the mirror reminds us of Freud’s notion that women are characterized by narcissism. He believed that a woman’s desire to be beautiful was an attempt to compensate for her lack of a phallus.
Marie Bonaparte, a close friend of Freud’s, purchased this figure for him in 1938 from a Parisian antiques dealer named Ségrédakis.


This plaster fragment depicts a seated female sphinx. She holds ivy and ribbon in her front paw and has shading on her belly and legs. This piece would have been a part of a larger composition, probably one which included another sphinx facing her, perhaps holding the other end of the ivy chain. Wall paintings were common in wealthier households throughout ancient Rome, but the style and colouring of this fragment suggest it may have come from Campania.


This fragment, from the side of a sarcophagus lid, illustrates the Trojans carrying the ransomed body of Hector, their leader. This story is recounted in Homer’s Iliad. After the burial of his best friend, a distraught Achilles refuses to return Hector’s body to his father Priam, king of Troy. Priam eventually brings a cart of treasure and asks Achilles to think of his own father, which convinces Achilles to surrender the body. Hector is then returned to Troy and receives a proper burial and mourning, two things the Greeks considered essential to a hero’s entry to the afterlife.
During this period in Rome, burial replaced cremation as the customary funeral ritual. Many stone sarcophagi were produced in Rome. They were often decorated with Greek mythology, by which a wealthy patron could demonstrate his superior knowledge of Greek culture.  

Freud also owned another fragment of this frieze. The first piece was purchased by a woman, possibly his friend Marie Bonaparte, from Viennese archaeologist and antiques dealer Ludwig Pollak and given to Freud as a gift. When Pollak found the second fragment on the Roman antiques market, he bought it and offered it to Freud.


This vessel, called an unguentarium, was once used to store perfume. Made of free-blown glass, its low, wide body acts as a base for its slender neck, creating a captivating silhouette. This piece was most likely made in the eastern Mediterranean, perhaps Cyprus.


This grape flask, named so for the distinctive pattern on its body, once held either perfume or oil. It was fabricated in a two-part mould and has visible vertical seams. Each half has a stylized grape pattern and a vine leaf. This flask was most likely made in Syria or Palestine.


Made of free-blown glass, this jar holds cremated human bones. Jars of this type (size and shape) may have been used as storage jars as well, however most contain cremated remains. Generally found in western provinces of the Roman Empire, such jars were most likely made by artisans in Italy, southern France, or Spain.


This bottle, with its stunning iridescent sheen, was made in the eastern Mediterranean, perhaps in Cyprus. The underlying colour of the bottle is green, but the iridescent colouring changes in shifting light.


Roman oil lamps, such as this one, were often decorated with erotic scenes. This lamp depicts a man lying on a bed and a woman sitting on top of him, both naked. Made of light brown clay covered in dark slip, the top and bottom of the lamp were made in separate moulds and then joined together.


This glass intaglio is inscribed with a pastoral scene illustrating a shepherd and two goats. Pastoral scenes are commonly found on intaglio and would have appealed to those who lived in the countryside and to urban dwellers who romanticized the simplicity of country life. Most wealthy Romans carried intaglios that they used as seals.
Freud gave intaglio to his closest colleagues beginning in 1912 with the formation of the Committee, an exclusive group of supporters who defended Freud and psychoanalysis in the wake of dissenters such as Carl Jung and from criticism from outside of the field. After the original Committee dissolved Freud continued to present rings to his closest friends and supporters. This particular ring was given to German psychoanalyst Ernst Simmel in 1928.


This hollow cast head was probably once a part of a standing statue of Buddha’s attendant, perhaps a bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas are kind creatures, who out of compassion have chosen to postpone nirvana until all others have achieved it. This bodhisattva would have been placed, probably with another identical one, flanking Buddha in a temple or monastery.
Freud’s bodhisattva has typical large ears draped with ribbons or scarves. Also typical is the hat shaped like an Indian stupa, a shrine housing a Buddhist relic. Four holes at the base of the hat may have once been attachment points for an ornate pendant crown.


This guardian figure’s intimidating looks, with furrowed brow and bared teeth, were intended to frighten away evil spirits from a temple or sacred tomb. It may be a dvarapala, a type of Buddhist guardian that protects entrances in pairs. The bodies of such figures are equally as dramatic as their faces, with exaggerated musculature and twisted poses full of movement. Such a fierce figure stands in contrast to the benevolent images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Although from the Ming Dynasty, the head is done in the style of the earlier Tang period (618-907), demonstrating a cultural interest in antiquity similar to Freud’s.


During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), unglazed terracotta figures, called mingqi, were buried with the deceased to show their status and wealth. Larger figures were made in two part moulds, fired, and then covered in white slip and brightly painted. Subjects varied, but might include figures of servants, officials, animals, dancing girls, musicians and foreigners – a colourful menagerie that provides insight into the cosmopolitan culture of Sian, Tang China’s capital.
Camels and horses were considered symbols of comfort because of their connection to the Silk Road. This camel, however, is certainly a twentieth century fake, distinguishable by its flakey paint. Large quantities of forgeries made their way out of China in the political chaos following the 1912 revolution.


This wooden screen, decorated with floral openwork and a white jade figure of a scholar, would have been placed on a scholar’s desk, along with ornamental writing objects such as brushes, ink blocks and brush rests. Such screens were often carved with landscapes or foliage in order to allow the scholar, in a Daoist mindset, to contemplate the simplicity of the natural world. Similarly, the scholar’s desk ideally would be placed by a window looking out to a garden, which like the screen, would create a miniature version of nature.


Since ancient times, jade has been highly valued in China. Originally used only for ritual objects, the stone later began to be used for decorative items as well. This jade paperweight would have adorned a scholar’s desk. 

Lions are not native to China and became known through Buddhist iconography brought from India in the third century A.D. Initially depictions of lions represented lions as ferocious beasts, however, by the Ming and Qing Dynasties they took on a more frolicsome, domesticated form. Images of lions became known as dogs of fo (Buddhism), and the Chinese even bred the Pekingese dog to resemble them. 

Chinese depictions of lions generally show males playing with a ball and females playing with cubs. This one is a unique combination of male and female attributes: It plays with a tasseled ball and the lion cubs that climb on its back.


This netsuke is in the shape of a shishi, the Japanese version of the Buddhist lion-dog. A netsuke is a toggle at the end of a cord by which Japanese men would carry personal items such as tobacco pouches and pipes. Originally these toggles were made of wood, but over time became more decorative and made of finer materials, such as ivory, like this one. The craftsman who made this piece demonstrates his skill by carving a separate piece for the tongue.


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