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Gedo, J.E. (1992). Art Alone Endures. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:501-516.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:501-516

Art Alone Endures

John E. Gedo, M.D.


Sigmund Freud, a passionate collector of antiquities, often treated these objects as animate beings. He described such blurring of boundaries between persons and things in the protagonist of W. Jensen's novella, Gradiva.

Freud began collecting when his father died, but his unusual attitude toward artefacts was established much earlier, presumably as a consequence of repeated early disappointments in human caretakers. It is postulated that this adaptive maneuver was not simply a displacement of love and hate, but a turning away from vulnerability in relationships, toward attachments over which he might retain effective control.

The Freud Collection is largely focused on Greco-Roman and Egyptian objects. Freud's profound interest in classical civilization was established in childhood; he was particularly concerned with the struggle between Aryan Rome and Semitic Carthage, a conflict in which he identified with both sides. This ambivalence reflected growing up within a marginal Jewish family in a Germanic environment. Commitment to classical ideals represented an optimal manner of bridging these contrasting worlds.

Egyptian artefacts were, for Freud, links to the prehistory of the Jewish people; they also represent an era when maternal deities found their proper place in man's pantheon—an echo of Freud's prehistoric past.

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