Iffland-Ring

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The Iffland-Ring is a diamond-studded ring with the picture of August Wilhelm Iffland (an actor, dramatist and theatre director who played Franz Moor in the premiere of Friedrich Schiller's Die Räuber in the National Theatre of Mannheim).

The holder of the Iffland-Ring disposes of the ring by will to someone whom he regards as the most significant German-speaking actor. One exception to this rule came in 1954, when Werner Krauß was not determined by the previous holder Albert Bassermann but by a committee of German-speaking actors. On three occasions Bassermann had chosen a successor, and on each occasion the actor died shortly thereafter. Bassermann considered the ring cursed, and was afraid to choose a fourth successor.[1] The current bearer of the Iffland-Ring is the Swiss actor Bruno Ganz.

Since 1954, the Iffland-Ring has been earmarked as the state property of the Republic of Austria.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

The origins of the ring are shrouded in some mystery and the current Iffland-Ring was most likely the most precious of a set of seven. Of those, only two rings appear to have survived: the current one and a less valuable one which was in the private possession of Wilhelm Burckhardsberg until the 1950s, but which may now be lost, too.[2] [3]

Iffland, a leading actor in his time in Germany, was inspired by the Romanticism, and commissioned the ring, to be carried by the leading German-speaking actor of his time.[4] Iffland's inspiration to have the ring created was most likely the play Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.[3]

Ludwig Devrient[edit]

The circumstances of where and when Iffland passed on the ring to Ludwig Devrient are uncertain; according to Albert Bassermann, Iffland handed the ring to Devrient in 1814, after his last performance in Breslau. Shortly after, in September 1814, Iffland died in Berlin.[4]

Devrient, a close friend of E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose death in 1822 he never got over, was one of the most gifted actors Germany ever produced, but also a drunkard. He collapsed while performing King Lear and died on 29 December 1832. His choice as his successor to the ring fell on his nephew Emil Devrient.[5]

Emil Devrient & Theodor Döring[edit]

Much of the history of the ring during this period remains lost. Emil Devrient, and after him Theodor Döring, were gifted but not outstanding actors in Berlin.[6]

Friedrich Haase[edit]

From Friedrich Haase onwards, the history of the ring is much better known.

Haase was born in Berlin, as the son of the personal servant of the then crown prince of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Rumor had it that he was the illegitimate son of a member of the house of Hohenzollern, something Haase used to his advantage.[7]

After early performances in Potsdam and Weimar, Haase moved to Prague, where he had considerable success. His career took him to Karlsruhe, Munich, Frankfurt, St. Petersburg and New York, and he became one of the most successful German actors.

Interestingly, neither Haase nor Döring were ever actually seen with the ring, despite both being known to have been rather vain, and one theory concerning the ring's origins has it that Haase himself had the ring made and invented its history. The now-known history of the ring in any case begins with Haase.[3] Certain discrepancies in the wording of a note found in the case the ring was kept in point in this direction, but can also be quite easily explained otherwise. In particular, the date Haase gives for his receipt of the ring from Döring's widow, 1875, appears wrong as Döring died in 1878.[8]

He left the ring to Albert Bassermann upon his death in 1911.[7] Together with the ring, Haase left a note for Bassermann, dated Berlin, Christmas 1908, in which he declares his regret at their not having known each other much better. He also gives the history of the ring, and that letter became the prime source for future research into its history.[9]

Albert Bassermann[edit]

Bassermann never wore the ring himself and named three successors during his lifetime, all of whom he survived.[10]

He outlived his first two choices, Alexander Girardi and Max Pallenberg and upon the death of his third choice, Alexander Moissi, Bassermann placed the ring on top of Moissi's coffin, to cremate the ring alongside his last choice. The director of the Burgtheater, Hermann Röbbeling, saved the ring by taking it off the coffin, declaring that it belonged to a living actor, not a dead one.[11] Bassermann considered the ring cursed after all three actors died shortly after he named them as his successors.[1]

After this incident, Bassermann gave the ring to the Austrian National Library in Vienna, where it remained almost forgotten. In 1946, when Bassermann visited Vienna, Egon Hilbert, director of the Austrian theatre administration, had two meetings with the actor. Bassermann refused to take the ring back and, at the second meeting, declared that Hilbert could do with the ring as he pleased.[12]

Hilbert asked Werner Krauss to take the ring after Bassermann died in 1952 but Krauss refused.

Werner Krauss[edit]

In October 1954, after an extraordinary meeting of the actors' guild, the ring was awarded to Werner Krauss and this time he accepted. Despite protests, especially from the Swiss actors' guild and the fact that the ring was now in private possession of Egon Hilbert, Krauss eventually received the ring. To prevent a repeat of the interregnum, laws were passed, requiring the ring bearer to always nominate a successor.[13]

Krauss received the ring on 28 November 1954 and handed a sealed envelope to the Austrian theatre administration on 12 December, stating his choice of succession.

Like Ludwig Devrient, Krauss collapsed while performing King Lear and died on 20 October 1959, passing the ring to Josef Meinrad, his original choice in 1954.[14] However, his widow later declared that Krauss would have liked to leave the ring to Alma Seidler, but was prevented from doing so by the fact that the ring could only be passed to a male.

Josef Meinrad[edit]

Meinrad's original choice of successor is not known, but in 1984, he changed his will. Upon his death in 1996, rumors were rife as to which Austrian actor would receive the ring. To the disappointment of many actors at the Burgtheater, the ring was awarded to Switzerland; Meinrad had chosen Bruno Ganz.[15]

Bruno Ganz[edit]

The current holder of the Iffland-Ring is Swiss actor Bruno Ganz.

Bearers of the Iffland-Ring[edit]

Ring-Bearer Born Died Duration Nationality
August Wilhelm Iffland 19 April 1759 22 September 1818 –1814 Kingdom of Prussia Prussian
Ludwig Devrient 15 December 1784 30 December 1832 1814–1832 Kingdom of Prussia Prussian
Emil Devrient 4 September 1803 7 August 1872 1832–1872 Saxony Saxonian / Germany German
Theodor Döring 9 January 1803 17 August 1878 1872–1878 Kingdom of Prussia Prussian / Germany German
Friedrich Haase 1 November 1827 17 March 1911 1878–1911 Kingdom of Prussia Prussian / Germany German
Albert Bassermann 1 7 September 1867 15 May 1952 1911–1935 Germany German
Interregnum 1935–1954 N/A
Werner Krauss 23 June 1884 20 October 1959 1954–1959 Germany German / Austria Austrian
Josef Meinrad 21 April 1913 18 February 1996 1959–1996 Austria Austrian
Bruno Ganz 22 March 1941 N/A 1996– Switzerland Swiss
  • Note: Until 1871, Germany did not exist as a country but instead was sub-divided into a number of countries, citizenship before 1871 shown as applicable.
  • 1 Albert Bassermann was considered to be the bearer of the ring until his death in 1952 but did not have the ring in his possession after 1935.

Laws governing the ring[edit]

In 1954, three basic laws were enacted concerning the possession of the ring, these being:.[8]

  • The holder of the ring has to determine a successor within three months of receiving the ring.
  • Should no successor have been appointed or the documents regarding succession be lost, the federal Austrian theatre administration will form a committee to decide on a successor.
  • The ring is the property of the Republic of Austria, but its future holder is determined by personal decision of the current holder.

Further reading[edit]

  • Viktor Reimann, Der Iffland-Ring - Legende und Geschichte eines Künstleridols (German)

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Time online published: 26 May 1952, accessed: 10 February 2009
  2. ^ Wohin kamen nun die Ringe? (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  3. ^ a b c Vorgeschichte (German) Article on the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  4. ^ a b DIE LEGENDE DES RINGES (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  5. ^ Ludwig Devrient (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  6. ^ Emil Devrient (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  7. ^ a b DIE GESCHICHTE DES RINGES (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  8. ^ a b Stiftung und Verleihung (German) Article on the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  9. ^ Brief Friedrich Haases an Albert Bassermann (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  10. ^ Widmungsschreiben Albert Bassermanns an das Theatermuseum (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  11. ^ Einleitung (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  12. ^ Albert Bassermann (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  13. ^ Die Ruhe des Ringes aber war gestört. (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  14. ^ Werner Krauss (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009
  15. ^ Meinrad übertrug den Iffland-Ring an Bruno Ganz, der ihn seit 1996 trägt. (German) History of the Iffland-Ring, accessed: 10 February 2009

External links[edit]