Between Oedipus and the Sphinx: Freud and Egypt

7 August 2019 to 13 October 2019

This new exhibition explores Freud’s enduring fascination with Egypt evident both in his writings and in his collection of antiquities.

 

Egyptian artefacts form the largest part of Freud’s collection and lie behind his ‘archaeological metaphor’ – one of his most productive methods for exploring the psyche and developing the practice of psychoanalysis.

Human headed Ba-bird, Ptolemaic Period 323 BC – 30 BC

Freud thought about the archaeology of the mind while advances in professional archaeology and Egyptology were developing. This fascinating new exhibition will bring Freud into dialogue with his contemporary Flinders Petrie, the first UK Professor of Egyptology, comparing their thoughts on archaeology and their respective collections of artefacts.

Exploring the themes of  Egyptomania, sexuality, death and more, objects from Freud and Petrie’s own personal collections will be displayed side by side.

A painting of Oedipus’ encounter with the Sphinx famously hung beside Freud’s couch. Nobody doubts the significance of Oedipus to the development of Freud’s thought but the presence of the Sphinx reminds us of his less celebrated interest in Egyptian culture.

Egypt played a prominent role in Freud’s writings. In his psychobiography of Leonardo da Vinci, Freud uses the Egyptian goddess Mut as the key to the artist’s sexual and creative identity. Egypt again takes centre stage in Freud’s final work Moses and Monotheism where he makes the scandalous claim that Moses was not a Jew but an Egyptian.

This Summer exhibition will explore all these themes and more, with the opportunity to see some never-before displayed Egyptian treasures from Freud’s collection up close.

In partnership with the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at UCL, which is home to Flinders Petrie’s collection of ancient artefacts from the Nile delta.

Gilded mummy mask, Egyptian Late Period