The Freud Museum

Figure of Baubo

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3868, Figure of Baubo, Ptolemaic Period; 332 BC - 30 BC

Artist: Photographer: Ardon Bar Hama
Culture: Egyptian (Hellenistic)
Material: Terracotta
Dimensions: 9.5 x 8.5 x 4 cm

Female figure of Baubo naked except for headdress, with spread legs with right hand pointing to displayed genitals.

Baubo lies on her back, her legs spread, her genitals exposed. Freud recognised the ancient power invested in the display of female genitals. In 'A Mythological Parallel to a Visual Obsession', he explores Baubo's significance.

In Greek myth, Baubo was a goddess of childbirth and fecundity, a ribald character symbolising humour and light-heartedness in the face of trouble, as well as sympathetic female bonds. When Demeter's daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades, the lord of Hell, Demeter desperately searched for her. Exhausted and dispirited, Demeter rested at Eleusis, where she was entertained by Baubo with some lewd jokes and lascivious dancing. 'Thereupon', Freud continues, 'Baubo made (Demeter) laugh by suddenly lifting up her dress and exposing her body.'      

The female with spread legs first appears in images from West Asia in the second millennium BC. though the posture was already used in Neolithic times to suggest birth, a source of sexual potency, even the origins of  all life. Baubo is a wild, unrestrained being who represents aspects of the feminine that are both confronting and profound.

See this object on our Collections site here 

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