28 albumen prints (various sizes, but circa 23 x 30 cm), pasted on original cards (36 x 43 cm), housed in an original calf portfolio with gilt coats of arms on the cover and embossed lines, flaps floral and inner side of the folder with patterned paper (white margins with light foxing and sporadic tiny chips, photographs in a good and clean condition, portfolio worn on edges and with light scratches on boards, card flaps torn and partly missing, patterned paper on the inner side slightly stained).
This stunning series of 28 large albumen prints represents villa “Dem Schönen” in Zürich and its famous art collection, which was around 1900 one of the largest privately assembled collections. It was made by a pharmacist and industrialist Dr. Adolf Friedrich Hommel and it included hundreds of paintings, ranging from the Italian Gothic paintings, Old Masters, Dutch landscapes, Renaissance and Baroque to the 19th century, sculptures, metal objects, porcelain, ceramics, dolls etc.
The two embossed gilt coats of arms on the cover of the portfolio belong to Dr. Hommel and his second wife Zwanetta (Jeannette) Frederika Sophie Hommel, née Gerth van Wijk.
This series, which is a valuable documentary insight in the private collections, is the only series of original photos we could trace and it was possibly made for the family upon their moving into the villa. Some of the photos were reproduced in the auction catalogues of 1909.
Villa “Dem Schönen”
The villa was designed by an architect Friedrich Kühn (1856-1914) from Heidelberg and was finished by January 1899. Already a few years later Dr. Hommel commissioned a long tract, which would be housing exhibition rooms, and a terrace. The extension to the villa was designed by a Zürich-based architectural bureau Chiodera und Tschudy, known for its monumental buildings in the city, and constructed between 1902 and 1904. The interior was painted with decorative floral and figural motifs by Antonio de Garda.
The art collection was housed in the villa for only 5 years, after which it was sold at two public auctions. The building stayed in the family’s possession until 1921, although it was rented out as a luxury furniture shop in the last years. Since 1986 the villa has been an Italian art lyceum, called Liceo Artistico.
Dr. Adolf Friedrich Hommel – The Collector
Dr. Adolf Friedrich Hommel (1851 – 1913) born in Chemnitz, Germany, was educated as a businessman and later as a medical doctor. By the late 19th century he made a fortune with his medical products and through his business connections with Russia. In the 1870s Dr. Hommel married Maria Christine Hommel (née von Roehde, 1846-1897), from the Pskov Oblast in Russia, who had a daughter from a previous marriage (Lydia Lederer, née von Nuernberg, in 1870). Until her death in 1897 Maria gave birth to three other children Helène (married Mackay) (1886-1926), Woldemar Hommel (1878-1924) and Bruno Hommel (1888-1954).
Maria Hommel’s large portrait can be seen on a wall of a studio on one of the photos.
Soon after Maria’s death, Dr. Adolf Hommel married his second wife Zwanetta (Jeannette) Frederika Sophie Hommel, née Gerth van Wijk, who gave birth to their first daughter in 1898.
In the same year the villa “Dem Schönen” was finished and the family moved into a new home, where three more children followed in the next six years.
In these years Dr. Hommel had their villa expanded with large galleries, where he exhibited his enormous art collection.
Only in 1909, Adolf Friedrich Hommel put his entire collection for sale to the auction J. M. Heberle (H. Lempertz’ Söhne) in Cologne and moved to the Wiesbaden.
The sale started exactly 110 years ago to the day, as I am writing this catalogue description, on August 10th, 1909. The auction lasted for 10 full days and the detailed two auction catalogues list 1588 art objects. Some of the images in the catalogue have been reproduced after photographs from our or similar series.
This is the only series of original photographs we could trace and they represent a valuable inside in a privately assembled collection and in the museology in the time around 1900.
References: Zürcher Denkmalpflege, 12. Bericht 1987-1990 … – Kanton Zürich, pp. 380-385; Kantonsschule Freudenberg Zürich, Liceo Artistico, Schweizerisch-italienisches Kunstgymnasium (https://www.kfr.ch/liceo/portrait/architektur/); Markus Bürgi, Adolf Hommel. HLS (https://hls-dhs-dss.ch/de/articles/014413/2008-01-08/). J. M. Heberle (H. Lempertz’ Söhne) <Köln> [Hrsg.]: Sammlung Dr. Adolf Hommel Zürich – Kunstgegenstände und Antiquitäten: Versteigerung zu Zürich, Oberer Parkring 2, Villa “Dem Schönen” unter Leitung von J. M. Heberle (H. Lempertz Söhne), G.M.B.H. in Köln a. Rh., Dienstag, den 10. bis Mittwoch, den 18. August 1909 ([S.l.], 1909). Hommel, Adolf [Sammler] [Hrsg.]; J. M. Heberle (H. Lempertz’ Söhne) <Köln> [Hrsg.]: Sammlung Dr. Adolf Hommel Zürich – Gemälde älterer Meister: Versteigerung zu Zürich, Oberer Parkring 2, Villa “Dem Schönen” unter Leitung von J. M. Heberle (H. Lempertz Söhne), G.M.B.H. in Köln a. Rh., Donnerstag, den 19. und Freitag, den 20. August 1909 ([S.l.], 1909).