The Freud Museum


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3471, Venus, 1st or 2nd century A.D.

Artist: Photographer: Ardon Bar Hama
Culture: Roman; from France or the Rhineland
Material: bronze
Dimensions: h. 5 in / 12.5 cm

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.


In Roman mythology, Aphrodite became Venus. Eros became Amor or Cupid (Latin cupido:desire), her son with Mars, the Roman god of war. Venus was associated with luxury and all the pleasures of the flesh. Venus stands in a relaxed pose as she gazes at her reflection in a mirror while holding a strand of her hair. Her robes are arranged to reveal her body. Princess Marie Bonaparte, who began her analysis with Freud in 1925, often gave Freud gifts for his collection, including this Venus.

Despite Freud's liberating theories about sexuality, his construction of femininity was both problematic and phallic. Castrated because she is in possession of a clitoris, a girl extends to her mother, and to all females (including herself), a sense of disappointment, of lack, even of shame. Penis envy also contributed to women's narcissism because 'in the physical vanity of women...they are bound to value their charms more highly as a late compensation for their original sexual inferiority'. Freud felt baffled by female desire. 'What does a woman want?' he asked Princess Marie Bonaparte.

Marie Bonaparte, a close friend of Freud’s, purchased this figure for him in 1938 from a Parisian antiques dealer named Ségrédakis.

See this object on our Collections site here

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