Object of the Month: October

Head vessel


Freud usually did not buy his antiques on his travels but rather mostly from antique dealers in Vienna and Berlin with whom he was acquainted, and also received many as gifts. With regard to the authenticity of this vast collection, despite the expert dealers and valuations by archaeologists and museums it is assumed to contain various forgeries that were probably not recognised as such at the time. Many experts are particularly sceptical about the authenticity of Chinese items. Freud’s collection in Vienna includes a known forgery of a supposedly Greek piece: a head vessel of unknown origin whose facial form does not match the ancient models but instead portrays the soft, milder features of ancient depictions from the 19th century. It can thus be assumed to be one of the forgeries intended to satisfy the 19th-century demand for classical antiques more quickly and easily.

Greek head vessels are a variety of figure vessels and were made from the 7th century. Scientists divide head vessels into more than twenty different categories based on their type. They often depicted representatives of other peoples. There also exist double-headed versions in the style of double herms, and the vessels were usually elaborately painted.

The roughly 8.5cm-high, colourfully painted head vessel in the collection of the Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna was included by Freud in his catalogue of antiques. It is not clear whether or not he was aware of this forgery. As yet, no scientific studies have been conducted on this vessel, that is currently not on show.

Photos: Head vessel (c) Sigmund Freud Privatstiftung

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