Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
99.69 cm x 74.29 cm | 39 1/4 in x 29 1/4 in
Framed: 134.62 cm x 109.22 cm x 8.89 cm| 53 in x 43 in x 3 1/2 in
Signed and dated right side above hand, T.C. Steele | 1895
From the collection of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
T.C. Steele painted portraits of husband and wife Henry and Matilda Schnull¹ – Henry in 1894 and Matilda in 1895. These portraits are conformed in size of canvas and framing selected. Both have conformed brass nameplates at the bottom. The portraits present Henry sitting, turned slightly to his right, and Matilda sitting, turned slightly to her left. When arranged together the couple are facing slightly inward toward each other, Henry on the observers right, Matilda on the left.
These are excellent examples of T.C. Steele’s technique in portraiture. They are unique; featuring individual portraits of both husband and wife, facing inward toward each other, and in conformed canvas size and framing selection. These portraits both reside in private collection in Cambridge, Massachusetts and remain hanging together in a private residence to this day. We are grateful to the owner who provided the provenance and granted permission to have these remarkable companion portraits of the Schnull’s photographed and documented for our virtual gallery.
In 1856, Matilda Schramm (1835 – 1902) married Henry Schnull (1833 – 1905). Matilda was from Hancock County, Indiana and the daughter of German immigrants Jakob Schramm (1805 – 1880) and Julia Junghaus Schramm (1807 – 1871)².
Matilda’s father, Jakob (Jacob) Schramm was born in 1805 on a hops farm in Bavaria. In 1835 he left Germany and sailed to America with his wife, Julia (Junghaus) having previously arranged the purchase of one hundred and sixty acres of land in Sugar Creek Township through a friend.
The Schramm’s proceeded from New York to Hancock County, Indiana. Mr. Schramm was a successful farmer and businessman. He was the first man in Hancock County to engage in the manufacture of drain tile.³
“Schramm arrived in the United States with a considerable fortune, in part acquired through the buying and selling of hops in Bohemia and in part inherited. He was a learned man and broth with him from Germany many books, including works by Johann H.D. Zschokke, and Johann Gottfried vonHerder – a formidable library for a frontier farmer in the nineteenth century. He instilled in his children a love for music, and the family enjoyed performing on the musical instruments also broth with them from their homeland”.²
Henry and Matilda had four children, Emma Schnull (Vonnegut), Nanette “Nannie” Schnull (Vonnegut), Gustav Adolph Schnull, Julia Wilhelmene Schnull.
Two of the girls married Vonnegut brothers Clemens Jr, and Bernard.
- Emma Schnull (1857 – 1939) married Clemens Vonnegut, Jr., son of Clemens Vonnegut, Sr.
- Nanette Schnull (1859 – 1929) married Bernard Vonnegut, son of Clemens Vonnegut Sr.
T.C. Steele would have been living with his family at Tinker Place when these paintings were completed and most likely, he painted each of them in his studio at the Tinker residence. Steele returned from his study in Germany in 1885, and became the most sought after portrait artist in the area during his time at the Tinker residence. His wife Mary Elizabeth Lakin “Libbie” Steele who later died of Leukemia (1899) would have been residing with the artist at Tinker place during the time these portraits were completed.
Henry and Matilda’s son Gustav A. Schnull and his wife (also named Matilda) Matilda L. Mayer Schnull built a prestigious home on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis, which is owned today by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Called “one of the best-designed of the city’s Meridian Street mansions” by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. The house is also an outstanding example of the architecture of Bernard Vonnegut and is one of the few remaining examples of French Romanesque architecture in Indianapolis. The home is located at 3050 N. Meridian Street and built in 1904. The Schnull-Rauch House is listed on The National Register of Historic Places.⁴
The home is referred to as Schnull-Rauch House. After Gustav’s wife (Matilda Mayer Schnull) death in 1923, their daughter Gertrude and her husband John G. Rauch, a lawyer who became president of the Art Association of Indianapolis, moved in and joined Gustav in the home. Gertrude Schnull (Rauch) and John G. Rauch remained in the home until the late 1970’s.
Henry and Matilda Schnull are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Section 6, Lot 35.
Bibliography and further reading on the Schnull Family
- Letters of Jakob Schramm and Family from Indiana to Germany in 1836, translated by Norma M. Stone, great-granddaughter of Jakob and Julie Schramm, with Notes by Emma Schnull Vonnegut and by the Translator, The Dartmouth Printing Co., Hanover, NH, 1951, 111 pages
- The Schramm Letters, Written by Jakob Schramm and Members of His Family from Indiana to Germany in the Year 1836, translated by and edited by Emma S. Vonnegut, Indianapolis, IN, Indiana Historical Society, 1935, published as Indiana Historical Society Publications Volume 11, Number 4, pp. 221 – 302
- Indiana Magazine of History, September 1981, Volume LXXVII, Number 3, see “Letter of Jacob Schramm in Indiana to Karl Zimmermann in Germany 1842,” pp 268 – 287
- History of Schnull-Rauch families, submitted on February 18, 1983 by Caterina Griner Gregor, Janet Preheim Lautzenheiser, Catherine Wood Lawson, Hazel Francis Lemen, members of the Provisional Class of 1982 of the Junior League of Indianapolis, 10 3/8” x 13 5/8”, 54 pages
- Family Chronicle, by John George Rauch, Sr., privately published in London, England, circa 1960
¹ History of Schnull-Rauch families, submitted on February 18, 1983 by Caterina Griner Gregor, Janet Preheim Lautzenheiser, Catherine Wood Lawson, Hazel Francis Lemen, members of the Provisional Class of 1982 of the Junior League of Indianapolis, 10 3/8” x 13 5/8”, 54 pages.
²Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 77, No. 3, (September 1981), pp.268-287 (20 pages). Jacob Schramm portrait pg. 270, Julia Junghaus Schramm portrait, p. 272.
³Schramm-Schnull-Mueller Family Collection, 1868 – 1992, Manuscript and Visual Collections Department, William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202-3269.
4“Schnull & Company Building (Commercial), 110-116 South Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Marion County, IN.” The Library of Congress. Accessed February 9, 2021. https://www.loc.gov/item/in0318/.