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

Sigmund Freud had arranged all the little figures on his desk, as if he wanted to assure himself of their support in his explorations of the unconscious. The figures belong to different cosmologies. Chinese statuettes of the Tang Dynasty are joined by Egyptian deities or Roman antiquities. Christian figures are absent. In the background hangs an etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. It shows the excavations on the Roman Forum.
Freud’s little desk museum bears similarities with Marcel Duchamp’s “Boîte-en-valise”, which was created around the same time (from 1935). Fragile, to be sure, but also mobile, the little take-away museum triumphed over the murderous tides of time. The “Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks,” Freud wrote in a letter to Jeanne Lampl-de Groot, had survived the flight from the Nazis into exile in London just fine.