Freud’s Isis

Significantly Freud – Isis

This painting of the Egyptian goddess Isis feeding her son Horus is one of my twelve smaller gilded paintings which together form Significantly Freud: Icons for a Jewish Atheist, representing my favourite twelve artefacts from the private collection of Sigmund Freud.

Isis, “She of the Throne”, was the powerful Egyptian mother goddess of the moon, love, fertility and healing, who used magic spells to help people in need.  Her headdress is in the shape of a throne. The Temple of Isis at Philae was built in her honour. Her husband was Osiris. and their son was Horus. When Osiris was killed by his brother Seth it was Isis who searched for his body and brought him back to life, just as the Nile floods annually giving life to the sands of Egypt


Das Mitleid (Compassion)

The painted red script Das Mitleid translates as “Compassion”. For me this signifies Freud’s search for a better understanding of how to treat his patients, how to see the world through their eyes, how to bring them back to a more normal life.

Freud’s original bronze statue of Isis, suckling her son Horus, is from the Late Period, Egypt, about 600 BC, bought for the price of the metal in the mid 1930s when artefacts were undervalued. It is 240 mm high. Isis was one of Freud’s favourite statues and had a prominent place on his desk.

One of my original sketches for this painting.

“The story of how Freud acquired Isis offers a good example of how undervalued antiquities were in his lifetime and how he managed to amass such a large collection on a limited budget. In 1935, Robert Lustig, Freud’s favourite Viennese antiquities dealer, spotted the statue in a junk shop in the countryside. When he asked the price, the shop owner put the statue on the scale to weigh it, and Lustig bought it for the price of the metal. Today Freud’s collection is worth several million dollars.” (Sigmund Freud’s Collection, Janine Burke, Monash University, 2007)

The colour of the frame and desktop in this painting was inspired by this slightly dirty blue colour in the geometric rug design that hung on the wall of Freud’s consulting room, above the couch.