The “Idol with anthropomorphic characteristics” is one of three South American antiques owned by Freud. This is an object from western Mexico whose exact purpose and date were for a long time uncertain. All three objects are grave goods and come from remote areas; the cultures were already defunct by the time the Europeans arrived and had no known writing system, so that there are no records of their structure or history.
In terms of style, the very simple and – literally – linear carved idol in the collection of the Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna is reduced to a highly stylised human figure made up of symmetrically arranged grooves representing the extremities and facial features in a very rudimentary form. According to specialist literature, this Mezcala style has no similarities with any other Central or South American style.
There are no notes about the pre-Columbian objects or how they came into Freud’s possession. Freud was not interested in pre-Columbian Mexico, nor did he have any patients or students with a connection to this region who might have given them to him as a gift. The only link to Mexico is a single Mexican book in Freud’s library – the exact origin of which is equally uncertain. Although there was a nascent interest in Aztec Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century, during Freud’s lifetime, it is not known whether he himself took an interest or whether he was in contact with scientists in this field. Hence, the question of how the Mexican figure found its way into Freud’s collection cannot be answered with any certainty for simple want of evidence.
Photo: Mexican Antique