This Theme was written by Schumann's Father in-law at the time - Baron von Fricken and amateur flautist. The original dedication was to his daughter and Schuman's fiancee - Ernstine von Fricken who was coincidentally also a student of Friedrich Wieck Father of his true love and eventual wife - Clara Wieck. When the Fricken/Schumann engagement broke off the dedication to both father and daughter were removed in the Schumann Symphonic Etudes score!
The subsequent pieces are variations on this theme and was originally titled Variations Pathetiques but later known as etudes - which is a fair description as they certainly do challenge the pianist to study.
The work was completed in its first version in 1835, however not as later published, missing some of the following variations/etudes and including 5 additional pieces which now are part of an appendix. The order of the works changed multiple times too. Clara Wieck played three of the works in 1837. Originally it was unpopular with the public and Schumann admitted that they were "not suited for an audience" yet applauded Clara the great pianist"I still remember the way you played my Etudes, you cast them as masterpieces"