After the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, Freud and his family fled to England. They eventually took up residence at 20 Maresfield Gardens, London—a house that has since become the Freud Museum.

Freud died a year later, in 1939, in very familiar surroundings. For he had been lucky enough to bring everything with him from Vienna, not only his household goods but also his library and, most important of all, his “gods,” his collection of antiquities.

The museum’s visitors inevitably sense Freud’s presence in the antiquities that crowd his study (shown reconstructed, above). Most remarkable are the rows of figurines on the writing desk, facing and framing the writer. They include T’ang Dynasty standing female figures, an ivory seated Vishnu, Egyptian gods, Roman statuettes and a Chinese scholar’s screen. What aesthetic taste or conceptual scheme unites such disparate objects? This is the riddle visitors answer in their own fashion.

The sheer heterogeneity of the collection might indicate that no single impulse lies behind it, except perhaps for the wide-ranging curiosity of an omnivorous mind. Freud was not a rich collector, nor was he a specialist who acquired only certain kinds of objects. He owned Greek vessels and funerary reliefs, fragments of Pompeian wall paintings, Egyptian sarcophagus lids and engraved stelae, Burmese Buddhas and oriental carpets. This is the Aladdin’s cave of an armchair traveler, whose genii were archaeologists and antiquity dealers. These objects are the spoils of a lifelong expedition into the human psyche and the ancient past.

“I have read as much archaeology as psychology,” Freud told the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. When in 1902 he found himself on the same boat to Athens as Heinrich Schliemann’s assistant, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, he wrote home about it, registering his pleasure. Freud saw many connections between archaeological exploration of the past and psychoanalytic exploration of the unconscious. Perhaps more importantly, Freud, like the early archaeologists, especially Schliemann, was an intellectual adventurer who resolutely followed his own hunches, continually unearthing new connections between past and present.