‘Most people ignorantly suppose that artists are the decorators of our human existence, the esthetes to who the cultivated may turn when the real business of the day is done. Far from being merely decorative, the artist’s awareness is one of the few guardians of the inherent sanity and equilibrium of the human spirit that we have.’ –Robert Motherwell
On January 3, 1889, two policemen approached Nietzsche after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin, Italy. What actually happened remains unknown, but the often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around the horse’s neck to protect it, and collapsed to the ground.
In the following few days, Nietzsche sent short writings — known as the “Wahnbriefe” (”Madness Letters”).
To his former colleague Burckhardt, Nietzsche wrote: “I have had Caiaphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished.” Additionally, he commanded the German emperor to go to Rome in order to be shot and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.
On January 6, 1889, Burckhardt showed the letter he had received from Nietzsche to Overbeck. The following day, Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided that Nietzsche’s friends had to bring him back to Basel. Overbeck traveled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel. By that time, Nietzsche appeared fully in the grip of insanity.
In 1898 and 1899, Nietzsche suffered from at least two strokes which partially paralysed him and left him unable to speak or walk. After contracting pneumonia in mid-August 1900, he had another stroke during the night of August 24 / August 25, and then died about noon on August 25.