Lidwien van de Ven

Lidwien van de Ven: Untitled (Freud’s desk in Hampstead), 2004
Courtesy Johann Jacobs Museum, Zurich

Untitled (Freud’s desk in Hampstead), 2004

The little figurines perch on the edge of Sigmund Freud’s desk. Freud himself arranged them in such a way that they faced him head-on, like dialogue partners whose expertise he relies on in his explorations of the civilising depths of the unconscious. Or like guards who accompany him on these risk-fraught exploratory trips. The figurines come from quite different regions of the world. Thus Chinese statuettes of the Tang Dynasty, Egyptian deities, but also Roman antiquities can be found. In the background there is an etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. It shows the excavations at the Forum Romanum.

If Freud’s small desk museum seems extremely fragile, it is also highly mobile and was able to adapt to the murderous course of history. As Freud himself writes, the ‘Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks’ have survived the escape from the Nazis into exile in London in 1938 (his desk is now in the Freud Museum in Hampstead).