Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum | Exhibition review

It’s rather disappointing to discover that merely one room has been allotted to host Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing and that of about two-thousand objects that Freud amassed in his lifetime, only twenty-nine are being displayed.

However, before taking a closer look at these antiquities usually to be found in Freud’s study, the visitor is invited to peep into the neurologist’s private affairs: a selection from the hundreds of letters exchanged between him and his future wife Martha Bernays aims to shed light on the way the two correspondents perceived love.

We understand that Freud supported an expression of feelings without restraints, all the while keeping a conservative approach to the subject of women’s emancipation. In the letter written on November 15th 1883 he warned his fiancée against reading further material on John Stuart Mill, who advocated women’s rights. In this missive, Freud invited Martha to vow herself to a more domestic life. Considering his research significantly paved the way towards a liberation of feminine sexuality, Freud’s opinions seem at least confused.

On the other side of the room are the items picked from the neurologist’s collection: erotes, figurines and amulets – all epitomising different Freudian theories.
For example Eros, circa 150-100 B.C., embodies the more sentimental expression of Love: the vital energy erupting from its body shape and posture suggests love’s awakening. Citing Plato, who said that desire is directed towards “what you don’t have…what you need”, we learn that Freud once told Jung he “must have an object to love”, revealing the importance he gave to longing.

This exhibition also explores Freud’s inquiries on Eros as the libidinal drive, the Lust strictly related to the physical sphere. A statuette of Venus from the 1st or 2nd century A.D is emblematic. The goddess, gazing at herself in a mirror, is associated with the pleasures of the flesh. The caption links it to the famous penis-envy theory, adding incongruity to Freud’s ideas.

Freud also possessed many amulets depicting genitalia. They didn’t have erotic significance for the earlier civilisations who created them but were used as good luck charms, like the “fist and phallus” talisman conceived to wish strength and protection. Bearing this in mind Freud got to despise his contemporaries’ conformist concept that genitals were shameful.

Apparently inconclusive, the main exhibition is actually accompanied by some works scattered around the museum and created by contemporary artists drawing inspiration from Freud’s theories. They risk going unnoticed, look out for them.
Furthermore, there will be various events related to Love, Lust and Longing throughout its run.
All in all the exhibition could have been more in-depth, but it still has its raison d’être.

Verdict: •••

Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing is on until 8th March 2015 at the Freud Museum, for further information visit here.

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