René Schornstein/Sennhein was born the son of Richard and Yvonne Schornstein in Baden near Vienna in 1899. The Schornstein family converted in 1903/04 from Judaism to Roman Catholicism and changed their name in 1915 from Schornstein to Sennhein. In 1926 René Sennhein married Marianne Haberfeld and moved to Fichtegasse 2 in Vienna's 1st district. The couple was childless. René Sennhein started out as commercial agent and then Prokurist (authorized signatory) with Garngroßhandlung Ludwig Nettel OHG, and became a partner in 1934. In 1935 he founded Strick- und Wirkwarenerzeugung Schiesl & Co. OHG with Ludwig Nettel and Marie Schiesl. With the aid of his father-in-law Hugo Haberfeld, art dealer and manager of Galerie Miethke in Vienna, René was able to compile a small art collection, including decorative art, figures of saints, furniture, painting, engravings and drawings. In August 1938 he fled to Britain with his wife, abandoning his possessions, most of which were auctioned by Vugesta. Ludwig Nettel OHG was liquidated and his share in Schiesl & Co OHG was Aryanized by Marie Schiesl. In 1950 René Sennhein, now a British citizen, agreed compensation payment with Marie Schiesl for the Aryanized share in the company, but the art objects were not restituted in the post-war period. From 1955, the Sennheins lived alternately in Leicester and Vienna. After her husband's death, Marianne Sennhein lived in Vienna until she died in 1984.
In 2016 the province of Lower Austria restituted the late fifteenth-century Sennhein Madonna, which had been acquired by the Lower Austria Gau from the Dorotheum in 1943, to the legal successors of René and Marianne Sennhein.