Nietzsche's ring

A very special ring will be up for auction at this autumn's Classic auction. (lot no 2531)

Nietzsche's ring

It is unique in a number of ways; it was worn by Friedrich Nietzsche and it represents the ancient Radwan coat of arms, which can be traced back to the Polish nobility of medieval times.

But why did Friedrich Nietzsche wear a ring representing the Radwan coat of arms and how did the ring end up in Sweden?

Much has been written about Friedrich Nietzsche over the years, from biographies to scientific works that portray his life and achievements as a man of science, philosopher, author and classic philologist.

Nietzsche placed science uppermost and saw it as mankind's saviour from religion, which may seem somewhat paradoxical given that he grew up in the home of a protestant priest. His predecessors had served in the church, and both his grandfathers had been protestant priests.

Throughout his adult life, Nietzsche claimed that he was descended from a branch of the Radwans with the name Niëtsky or Niësky. There exists correspondence on this subject between Nietzsche and his contemporaries, including a letter to Georg Brandes dated 1888.

In 1895, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche published a biography of her brother in which she claimed that the history of the family's origins had been recounted to her and her brother by their aunts. Other writers have also sought to clarify the family's background, though efforts to present a scholarly family history have been less than successful. What is fascinating is that a man of science such as Friedrich Nietzsche did not care to portray the family history empirically. To him, intuition and feelings were what counted.

In 1888 he wrote to Brandes: "And yet my ancestors were Polish noblemen: it is owing to them that I have so much race instinct in my blood, who knows? Perhaps even the liberum veto. When I think of how often I have been accosted as a Pole when travelling, even by Poles themselves, and how seldom I have been taken for a German, it seems to me as if I belonged to those who have but a sprinkling of German in them."

In 1905, the Polish writer Bernhard Scharlitt in the spirit of Polish patriotism wrote an article about the Nietzsche family. In Herbarz Polski, a genealogy of Polish nobility, he had come across a note about a family named "Nicki", who could be traced back to Radwan. A member of this family named Gotard Nietzsche had left Poland for Prussia, and his descendants had eventually settled in Saxony around the year 1700. Where all trace of them comes to an end.

What we do know is that Friedrich Nietzsche was born in 1844 in Saxony-Anhalt, and that he should wear a ring with the Radwan coat of arms was to him self-evident.

And how did the ring end up in Sweden? Strange are the ways of the world. The ring was given as an expression of gratitude for a donation to the Nietzsche archive in Weimar, Saxony made by Ernest Thiel, Stockholm. The recipient of the ring was Ernest Thiel's son Tage and the giver was Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Which makes its provenance no less fascinating.

Lot no 2531 Nietzsches ring

For more information please contact Ulla-Karin Warberg tel: -+46 8-453 67 85
ulla-karin.warberg@auktionsverket.se

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