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OBJECT OF THE MONTH – May 2006


Ferdinand Schmutzer (1870-1928), Portrait of Sigmund Freud (b. May 6, 1856, Freiberg, Moravia – d. September 23, 1939, London), 1926
 
Soft-ground etching on paper, print: 670 x 480 mm; sheet: 670 x 480 mm
Signed bottom right beneath the print: Nachlass Ferd. Schmutzer
Autographed in blue ink in the print at the bottom right: Sigmund Freud, 1926
Provenance: acquired by the Jewish Museum in Prague in 1942-1945; confiscated by the Treuhandstelle from the property of an unknown person
Accession no. JMP 98.117

On May 6, 2006, we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. One of the most acclaimed scientists of all time, Freud’s theories had a considerable influence on perhaps all areas of life. Freud’s new definition of personality, attributing great importance to sexuality, the imagination and dreams, represented just as radical a breakthrough in the way we see the world as Einstein’s theory of relativity. Freud’s studies on hysteria and neuroses and his theory of the unconscious with respect to the interpretation of dreams became a cultural constant that influenced not only the science of medicine and psychology but also humanitarian sciences, art criticism and critical theory and practice.
 
Sigmund Freud was born in the small town of Freiberg (Příbor) in north-eastern Moravia. He soon left his birthplace in the Beskydy Mountains, however, as his parents moved to Vienna. This is where he spent his childhood, studied at the medical faculty and worked as a private analyst and scientist until June 1939, when he and his family sought exile in London. Shortly after arriving in London, he died of cancer of the mouth and jaw, which he had suffered from for many years.
 
Freud’s portrait by the Vienna-based artist Ferdinand Schmutzer (1870- 1928) was commissioned for Freud’s 70th birthday in 1926. Freud was pleased with the portrait, as demonstrated by the following passage from his letter to Schmutzer: “[This portrait] it gives me great pleasure and I should really thank you for the trouble you have taken in reproducing my ugly face, and I repeat my assurance that only now do I feel myself preserved for posterity.”

 

 

 


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