Art Collection of Richard Semmel

Newspaper cutout with the portrait of Richard Semmel, 1925.

Provenance Research on the Art Collection of Richard Semmel

Since 2002, Facts & Files has been conducting research on the art collection of the factory owner Richard Semmel.

Facts & Files is researching the creation of the art collection, the provenance of the paintings and also their whereabouts. Richard Semmel collected Old Dutch masters as well as works by French artists, mostly impressionists paintings. His collection was also featured in art publications. He purchased a portrait by Hans Müelich and a painting “Flowers” by Camille Pissarro from the Gallery Heinemann in Munich in 1929.

Richard Semmel war born on September 15, 1875 in Zobten am Berge, Schweidnitz. His parents were Moritz Semmel (1839-1910) and Amalie Silber (1841-1910). He had four siblings. His father was working as corn dealer. In 1885, the family moved to Berlin. After he finished school, Richard Semmel took an apprenticeship at the companies Dienstag & Wolff and Julius Salomon. Since 1896, he was working for the Berlin based lingerie factory “Arthur Samulon & Co.”. In 1901, he married Claire Cäcilie Bruck from Neiße, who was also from a Jewish family. The couple remained childless.

In 1902, Richard Semmel became proxy of the company Arthur Samulon & Co., and in 1919 he was the sole owner of the enterprise. Since 1925 the architect Adolf Wollenberg built a mansion for Richard and Claire Semmel in Berlin-Dahlem. The couple lived there until they had to leave Germany in April 1933 to emigrate to Amsterdam.

Richard Semmel auctioned a large part of his collection at two auctions at Frederik Muller, but not all lots were sold. Several works of art were auctioned later in Switzerland, others remained in the Netherlands and were confiscated there in 1942.

Before the Germans occupied the Netherlands in 1940, Richard Semmel and his wife managed to flee via Chile and Cuba to the United States. They lived there in New York City. Richard Semmel’s wife Claire died on May 30, 1945 in New York City. He submitted several claims on works of art in the Netherlands, and also on his property in Berlin. Richard Semmel died on December 2, 1950 in New York City.

Recommandations on Restitution:

2009  – Dutch Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War

2013  – Dutch Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War

2014 – National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australien Media Information


Kulturreport, September 11, 2005, 11 pm

“Kunstfahnder und Forscher schlagen Alarm”


Beate Schreiber
P: +49 (0)30 / 480 986 20