Frida Schottmüller was born in Berlin, Germany and enrolled in the University of Berlin in 1899 to study art history. In 1903, she went to the University of Zurich, where she earned a Ph.D. with a dissertation on the Renaissance sculptor Donatello. She got a job as a curator of the Italian Renaissance division of the Kaiser Friedrich-Wilhelm Museum (now the Bode Museum), and helped to develop the "period room" concept of displaying Renaissance art in its historical and cultural context. She spent the years 1917-1918 at the Institute of Art History in Florence, and wrote catalogs for the museum's Spanish and Baroque sculptures. She published Furniture and Interior Decoration of the Italian Renaissance in 1921. Late in her career, she completed the catalog of Italian and Spanish sculptures, Die italienischen und spanischen Bildwerke der Renaissance und des Barock.