Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Nietzsche’s early years in pictures

Daniel Blue



This photograph, taken for Confirmation, was probably the first portrait of himself that Nietzsche had ever seen. Fundamentally pleased with it, he nonetheless acknowledged its homelier aspects: “My stance is hunched, my feet somewhat crooked, and my hand looks like a dumpling.”




In this image Nietzsche seems quite a different person from the rather conventional figure in his Confirmation photograph. He has shed boyhood and is now clearly a young man, and he wears his hair Byronically long so that it falls in a clump well below his collar. The new picture is a close-up, but instead of looking frontally into the camera, Nietzsche gazes to one side so that the eyes, which look rather startled under the eyebrows when viewed face-on, are seen merely to lie slightly sunk in their sockets and gaze from beneath an orbital shelf. From these clean-shaven portraits it is clear that his brow and jaw are almost as decisive in his appearance as the mustache which would appear later.




Societät. (Association) A student philological organization in Leipzig. Nietzsche stands third from left facing Ernst Windisch, who is looking down. Windisch strongly supported Nietzsche, traveling to his home town to visit him when he was ill, procuring him work as a reviewer, and arranging for him to meet Richard Wagner. Of the four men sitting, Nietzsche’s close friend, Erwin Rohde, looks directly into the camera.




In the fall of 1868 at a friend’s request Nietzsche, who was in the army, had a photograph made of himself in uniform. It turned out to be unflattering, a judgment he himself implicitly rendered when he tried to explain what had gone wrong. It showed him, he admitted, in a somewhat aggressive posture, accosting his audience rudely with drawn saber and with “an irritable and unpleasant” expression on his face. “But why does the miserable photographer annoy us … ? Why must we always be ready with our sword? And when we’re about to rush precipitously upon [him], what does he do? He ducks under his mantle and shouts, ‘Freeze!’”

About The Author

Daniel Blue

Daniel Blue is an independent scholar. He is the author of many articles on Nietzsche in journals including the Journal of Nietzsche Studies and Dialogue....

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