Karplus and Freud - A Folding Table with a History
The Jewish Museum Vienna received a very special donation. Nobel Prize laureate Martin Karplus and his wife Marci entrusted us last year with two pieces of furniture from the Karplus family property: a rocking chair and a folding table from the family apartment in Palais Lieben-Auspitz. The rocking chair will be shown at the exhibition on Viennese Jewish salons, which we will be presenting as of May 2018. Since yesterday the folding table has been a new highlight in our permanent exhibition Our City! Jewish Vienna – Then to Now.
As a result, I would like to particularly focus on the folding table today. This wonderful piece of furniture, even though it stylistically seems as if it would be older, probably originated in the 1920s. Beside its decorative exterior, it is above all its history that makes the table so interesting that we decided to place it in the permanent exhibition in the area between Vienna around 1900 and the interwar period.
Martin Karplus’s grandfather, Dr. Johann Paul Karplus, a neurologist and chief physician at the Vienna Polyclinic, liked to play tarot with friends on this folding table. One of the regular members of the round was his colleague Dr. Sigmund Freud. The meeting place was the representative Karplus family apartment on the second floor of Palais Lieben-Auspitz, where Karplus lived with his wife Valerie, née Lieben, and their four sons. The Palais is located on the Ringstrasse next to the Burgtheater and still houses the famous Café Landtmann on the ground floor today.
Johann Paul Karplus died in 1936, Valerie in January 1938. Their eldest son Hans, father of the Nobel laureate Martin Karplus, was the only member of the family in Vienna at the time of the “Anschluss.” He organized four furniture containers and sent them to his brothers in Palestine and the USA (Massachusetts), where he himself fled a short time later.
Martin Karplus inherited the card table, as well as the rocking chair. Together with his wife Marci he visited the Jewish Museum in 2015 on the occasion of the exhibition Ringstrasse. A Jewish Boulevard, which also addressed his family and the seizure of their property in 1938. The following exhibition, The University. A Battleground, broached the issue of Martin Karplus’s Nobel Prize itself—especially the attempted exploitation by Austria—a fate that he shares with his Vienna-born Nobel Prize colleagues Walter Kohn and Erich Kandel.
We are particularly happy about the trust Martin and Marci Karplus placed in us. Moreover, we are very much aware of what these new objects mean for our collection. The folding table enables the connections between the Ringstrasse families and the Viennese Jewish intellectual world around 1900 and afterwards to be even more vividly illustrated.
Assembling of the table at the permanent exhibition © Jüdisches Museum Wien / Lukas Pichelmann
Photo © Jüdisches Museum Wien / Lukas Pichelmann
Cover photo © Jüdisches Museum Wien / Lukas Pichelmann