Gradiva (postcard)


This bas-relief of a young woman hangs at the entrance to Freud's study.

It is a plaster-cast of a Roman sculpture from the Vatican Museum.

Freud's interest in the sculpture is related to his 1906 essay, Delusion and Dream in Jensen's 'Gradiva', a study of a short novel by Wilhelm Jensen.

Freud's essay was the first full-length study of a work of literature. Jensen's hero is an archaeologist who has fallen in love with the figure of the woman on the bas-relief and has the delusion of meeting her in real life in Pompeii. But she turns out to be his childhood sweetheart.

As Freud shows, his fantasies 'were not capricious products of his imagination, but determined, without his knowing it, by the store of childhood impressions which he had forgotten, but which were still at work in him.'


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