A recreation of pre-war Vienna, 20 Maresfield Gardens served as Sigmund Freud's final surrogate home after fleeing Nazi occupation in Austria in the late 1930s. Now the site of the Freud Museum, this house perfectly preserves Freud's unique work space, notorious couch, house and gardens, full of interesting items and the Freud family's own personal possessions.
Although Freud only spent the final year of his life here, the preserved interior of this house still bears the distinct marks and atmosphere of the Freud family home. Anna Freud, herself a significant contributor towards psychoanalytic theory, managed the house until her death in 1982 and looked after her father's office, keeping his and the family's possessions in perfect condition. As such, you are able to step back in time, into Freud's truly unique office, covered in elaborate Oriental rugs, lined with bookshelves and filled with antiquities. The room's central feature is justly the psychoanalyst's renowned couch, aptly adorned in several luxurious rugs, upon which his subjects would relate their anxieties. But one of the great fascinations of this room is being able to discover what books Freud chose to keep in his office, and many German titles and scientific volumes can be observed alongside history and literature, including some Shakespeare and Gogol.
And most interesting still is perhaps Freud's own personal collection of antiquities, which crowd the surfaces of his rooms. Consisting of over 2,000 items from Egypt, the Orient and Rome, Freud's collection reveals a desire for objects with meaning and symbolism greater than their monetary value. One such item is a replica panel of the Gravia from the Vatican museum: an image of a woman walking, holding her skirts above her feet. It commemorates the psychoanalyst's analytic reading of Wilhel Jensen's novel, which was inspired by the original Vatican panel. These items are surprising, and touching in that they are a very clear visual marker of Freud's own personal interest - on par with cigars -adding a sense of intimacy that you might discover something of the man in his preserved home. The worn leather desk chair and opulent rugs, surrounded by crowds of antique figures, creates a truly unexpected atmospheric space, and is completely fitting for a man who has drawn so much interest.
The rest of the house is similarly filled with furniture and items transported from the Freuds' home in Vienna, and lovingly preserved by Anna. Just as Freud managed to recreate his Vienna consulting rooms within his London Hampstead home, so too does the rest of the house serve to reflect a pre-war Viennese household. Along with 19th and 18th century Austrian peasant-painted furniture, the family's Biedermeier chests, tables and cupboards can all be seen, as well as further evidence of the Freuds' library and Salvador Dali's portrait of Sigmund Freud. Anna's couch and desk upon which she developed her own psychoanalytic theory, lie in an upstairs bedroom alongside her loom. However, these rooms have not been as carefully preserved, or as complete as Freud's office, which remains the distinct focal point of the museum.
This house, on a quiet Hampstead street, does offer a very intimate memorial though. Filled with the Freuds' possessions, and carefully preserving the special atmosphere of Freud's own personal work space, and his historic couch, there is a sense that visitors can gain a personal glimpse into the psychoanalyst's life and work in a very intimate environment.