By Michael Kliegl
Having remained in Vienna almost to the bitter end, Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna eventually fled from Nazi persecution after the annexation of Austria in 1938 and set up their new home at 20 Maresfield Gardens, London. Though reluctant to leave, the Freuds had foreseen this eventuality and, over the years, shipped many of their possessions to Freud’s son Ernst Ludwig in England. Finally, Freud’s reputation as the founding father of psychoanalysis enabled him to bring all of his household effects and furniture with him when he fled. As the story goes, the Austrian storm troopers were afraid that history would never forgive them if they mistreated the eminent psychoanalyst.
As a result, and though Sigmund himself died the following year, the former Freud estate in London now hosts a large collection of Freud’s worldly possessions. Indeed, upon his death, Anna apparently preserved the study and library in the way he had arranged them, so that one can now muse about Freud’s taste in literature, which includes – but is by no means limited to – Goethe and Shakespeare. Alongside Freud’s immense collection of Roman, Greek and Egyptian antiquities, there is also a portrait of Freud by Salvador Dalí.
The highlight of any visit to this establishment, however, is the original couch upon which Freud’s patients reclined while he sat out of sight and listened to them. From Disney cartoons to Woody Allen films, this iconic setting has been reproduced countless times and has become inextricably linked with the very concept of psychoanalysis. But visitors to the Freud Museum may be surprised to find that unlike the slick and sterile black leather couch that features in most popular accounts, Freud’s couch is actually covered by a colourful Persian rug.
For more information and opening hours, see the Freud Museum’s website at www.freud.org.uk.