Kultur, Zoologi og metafysisk spekulasjon

Freud and the love for antiquities

In Arkeologi, Kultur on januar 18, 2012 at 8:20 pm

It is commonly know that prehistory played a major role in Freud’s theories and developments in psychoanalysis, claiming for instance that the history of mankind sums of the history of the father-son relationship. But in addition to this intellectual and literary interest, Freud was also a collector of antiquities.

Indeed, through his life Freud made quite the collection of antiquities. According to Ucko (2001) he owned about 2000 objects. (Some say 1900, and others 3000-4000.) A great many of these were of Roman and Greek origins, while others were from far away countries. Freud was not mainly interested in the beauty of the things, some of the less known artifacts were two Neolithic and one Lower Paleolithic hand axe. But presumably, his favorite thing was a roman copy of a Greek statue of Athena, having said on one occasion: “She is perfect, only she has lost her spear.”

Freud found that owning and living amongst these things gave him a lot in terms of qualities in life. In everyday life they gave him gratification, pleasure, and taking him out of his daily routine. He said of one Indian ivory statue of Vishnu: “it will recall to my mind the progress of Psychoanalysis, the pride conquest it has made in foreign countries and the kind feelings it has aroused in some of my contemporaries at least”. The things also made him feel at home in his new house when he moved to London.

It is said that collecting antiquities was he only extravagance in life. One Hilde Doolittle, one of his patients, even compared him to a museum curator. He often used the antiquities when speaking to patients. Freud saw his interest as a weak addiction, proclaiming that he might even had managed quit smoking If only he had the resources to afford buying enough antiquities. Once a week he made the tour around Vienna’s antiquity dealers, and once a week or month he was visited at home by a particular dealer. On one occasion, he went and bought a Greek vase simply to cheer himself up. This was still at a time when there were ‘honor among thieves’.

After his death, and according to his will, the things went to his daughter Anna. They can now be seen at the Freud Museum London here.



Unprovenanced Material Culture and Freud’s Collection of Antiquities. Peter Ucko. Journal of Material Culture 2001 6: 269.

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