Christiane Schumann (1767 - 1836), mother

Christiane Schumann geb. Schnabel
[fig. 1]

Christiane Schumann née. Schnabel (about 1767 - 1836) at the age of ca. 43
Mother of Robert Schumann
Painting by L. Glaeser, 1810
Robert-Schumann-Haus Zwickau

This painting shows the mother of Robert Schumann in the year he was born.

Christiane Schumann geb. Schnabel
[fig. 2]

Christiane Schumann née Schnabel (about 1767 - 1836) at the age of 48
Miniature by W. Engels, 6. Juli 1815
Robert-Schumann-Haus Zwickau

Robert Schumann’s mother Christiane was born in Karsdorf on 28th November 1767 as the eldest daughter of Abraham Gottlob Schnabel (1737-1809) and Johanne Sophie, née Lessing (1745-1818), and was a grandniece of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Her father established himself as a town surgeon in Zeitz from 1768. When August Schumann (1773-1826) arrived in Zeitz as a bookshop assistant in 1793, he stayed at the house of Abraham Schnabel and fell in love with his daughter Christiane. In 1795, they got married and moved to Ronneburg where August Schumann had opened a bookshop, in which Christiane Schumann became involved as well. In 1808, the family moved to Zwickau. The marriage produced the following children: Emilie (1796–1825), Eduard (1799–1839), Carl (1801–1849), Julius (1804–1833), and Robert (1810–1856).
When his mother came down with typhoid, Robert Schumann spent part of his early childhood with the Ruppius family in Zwickau, presumably between 1814 and 1816. Christiane Schumann was musical herself and had a passion for singing. She recognised Robert’s artistic talent and arranged for piano lessons with the Zwickau organist Johann Gottfried Kuntsch, although Robert credited his father with launching his artistic career. Robert Schumann had quickly exhausted his piano teacher and took up his own studies. Compared, for instance, to Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann’s musical education remained “provincial” (Quoted after Barbara Meier, Robert Schumann, p. 12), as Robert wrote to Clara Wieck in 1838: “[If I had grown up in similar conditions to his [Mendelssohn’s], destined for music from childhood, I would have surpassed all of you – I can feel this from the strength of my sensations].” After August Schumann’s passing, Christiane decided on a legal career for her son, together with Robert’s guardian, Johann Gottlob Rudel. In 1830, after Robert Schumann had definitely opted for music, Christiane, at his request, wrote a letter to Friedrich Wieck in which she anxiously told about her son’s plans for the future and asked for an assessment of their feasibility. Friedrich Wieck eventually accepted Robert as a pupil. Christiane Schumann was always interested in the development of her son but was also worried about his future as an artist. In July 1834, two years before her passing, she went to see Robert in Leipzig. Christiane Schumann passed away in Zwickau on 4th February 1836.

Cf. Ernst Burger: Robert Schumann. Eine Lebenschronik in Bildern und Dokumenten. Unter Mitarbeit von Gerd Nauhaus und mit Unterstützung des Robert-Schumann-Hauses Zwickau, Mainz et al., 1999, pp. 13, 86–87.
Cf. Barbara Meier: Robert Schumann, Hamburg, 2010, pp. 7–11.
Cf. Gerd Nauhaus: “Roberts Mutter – eine Zeitzerin? Langwierige Spurensuche und endliche Aufklärung”, in: Zeitz und seine Umgebung. Vergangenheit-Gegenwart-Zukunft, No. 9 1/2012, pp. 3 ff. Online on: [2.8.2020].
Cf. Schumann-Briefedition, Series I, Vol. 1: Familienbriefwechsel (Briefwechsel mit den Verwandten in Zwickau und Schneeberg), edited by Thomas Synofzik and Michael Heinemann, Cologne, 2020, pp. 41–45.

(Theresa Schlegel, 2020, translated by Th. Henninger)