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Freud the Collector   by Farzan Navab
Freud Rugs  

It is a well known fact that when Sigmund Freud arrived in London in the summer of 1938, he brought with him a collection of Oriental Rugs from Vienna. The address was 20 Maresfield Gardens, London, England. The former residence of the father of psychoanalysis is today known as the “Freud Museum”.

We can only speculate as to the reasons why Freud was interested in rugs. It is by no means surprising since as a cultured man and one well aware of Non-Western artistic traditions, Freud enjoyed all cultural by products including statuettes of the Buddha and various Indian deities, Egyptian and Greek artifacts and of course Oriental rugs.

Freud's interest in other cultures had deep roots in his general philosophical outlook. In his
research for such books as “Totem and Taboo,” “The Future of an illusion,” “Moses and Monotheism” and “Civilization and its Discontents” Freud had dealt with varieties of cultures that one could categorize as Non Western. Therefore such cultural artifacts as rugs naturally was of great interest to him.


The fact however remains that Freud’s rugs were among some of the best examples of Oriental rugs displayed in European homes at that time. Mostly made in the 19th century with a few examples from earlier times, Freud’s rugs included tribal as well as city pieces. Among what was displayed, one can identify a Qashqi used as a cover on top of his famous couch, a Bakshayesh carpet on the floor and a Turkman tribal rug covering his desk of Buddhas and other deities.

In relation to Freud’s love for these artifacts Erica Davies, Director of Freud Museum in London writes: “All the Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks have arrived, have stood up to the journey with very little damage, and look much more impressive here than at Berggasse.” Sigmund Freud’s letter to his friend Jeanne Lampl de Groot expresses his contentment that, after months of anxiety and turmoil, he, his family and all his possessions were now settled in their new home at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, London. The large brick house was to provide a haven for Freud where he could pass the last year of his life in relative peace and contentment.

The heart of this house was, and still is, Freud’s study and consulting room, where his collection of antiquities and library were set up in 1938, arranged in much the same fashion as in Vienna. The unique atmosphere is retained today. The rooms glow with the rich colors of oriental rugs which cover the floor, tables and the psychoanalytic couch; while the walls are lined with shelves, dismantled and moved from Berggasse 19 and filled with books reflecting Freud’s professional interests-neurology, psychology, psychoanalysis - and his intense passion for archaeology, ancient history and anthropology. Among the books are glass cases filled with many hundreds of antiquities. The contents of these books and cabinets were the raw materials which would sustain Freud’s intellect and feed the imagination of the Viennese neurologist to whom “the Secret of Dreams was revealed”. The collection itself is an eclectic mix of Egyptian, Near Eastern, Classical, Oriental and South American pieces, reflecting the extraordinary breadth of Freud’s taste. As it is shown to a wider public through exhibitions such as this, ever more layers of the man and his passion are revealed. Many pieces clearly held particular meaning - the figures of Athena and Eros are perhaps the most obvious examples - yet as much of the collection was acquired for its romantic and aesthetic appeal.”*

Above all there seems to be something to the fact that Oriental rugs, with their varied patterns and colors, can stimulate the imagination and perhaps the “subconscious”. One can speculate that the 19th century South Persian Qashqi rug on the couch helped surfacing a few buried emotions and awakened a few souls!

Sigmund Freud died at his Hampstead home,now the Freud Museum,on 23 September 1939. A collector to the end, his ashes lie in an ancient Greek vase in the crematorium at Golders Green, north London!

* Source: The Freud Museum

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