Wesendonck, Otto

BORN 16 Mar 1815, Elberfeld, Nordrhein-Westfalen (now: part of Wuppertal) - DIED 18 Nov 1896, Berlin
GRAVE LOCATION Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen: Alter Friedhof (Abteilung V, Grabnummer 105-108)

Otto Wesendonck was the son of the merchant August Jakob Wesendonck (d.1857). He became a merchant as well and travelled to the USA for business for a company in Elberfeld when he was eighteen years old. After his return he worked for Loeschigk, Wesendonk & Co. In 1844 he married Mathilde Eckhardt, but she died during their honeymoon in Florence of typhus. He settled in Düsseldorf where he met Agnes Luckemeyer during a wedding in 1847. He asked her permission to call her Mathilde and married her in 1848, It was probably only after his death that she found out that Mathilde was the name of his first wife. They had five children.

In 1850 he and Mathilde went to Zürich, at that time the centre of the silk business. He was very rich now and they lived at the Hotel "Baur au Lac" until their new villa was completed. In 1851 he travelled to Lyon, Milan and Livorno for business. In 1852 he met Richard Wagner and he supported him financially from 1853. In 1857 he allowed Wagner to live in his garden house next to his villa that Wagner called his 'Asyl'. Wagner came to love Mathilde (and they were possibly lovers) but when Wesendonck found out he put an end to the affair. He continued to support Wagner. In 1858 he had bought the rights to the "Ring des Nibelungen" but later he allowed Wagner to transfer the ownership to king Ludwig II of Bavaria. In the 1860s he withdrew from business. In June 1868 he attended the premiere of Wagner's "The Meistersinger" In Munich.

In 1872 the Wesendoncks sold their villa (now the Museum rietberg) and returned to Germany. They settled at the Wiener Strasse in Dresden and moved on to Berlin in 1882, where they lived at the Thiergartenstrasse 16. He died in Berlin in 1896. He was buried in the family grave in Bonn, where his son Hans had died as a student in 1882.

• Wife: Wesendonck, Mathilde (1848-1896)

Related persons
• was sculpted by Küppers, Albert
• supported Wagner, Richard


The Villa Schönberg stands at the spot of the former Riegelhaus (or "Asyl") where Richard Wagner lived and worked from 1857 to 1858. The Riegelhaus was owned by Otto and Mathilda Wesendonck who sold it in 1872. The present villa was built in 1882.
Picture by Androom (18 Aug 2005)


The grave of Otto and Mathilda Wesendonck at the Alter Friedhof, Bonn.
Picture by Androom (17 Mar 2022)


Otto Wesendonck - Otto und Mathilde Wesendonck - WebSitePortal
Otto Wesendonck (Kaufmann) – Wikipedia

Wessely, Paula

Published: 05 Mar 2022
Last update: 26 Mar 2022