Lost £55m Gustav Klimt Masterpiece To Be Auctioned in Vienna

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, (1917). Courtesy im Kinsky

Vienna — A long-lost painting by the renowned Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, believed to have vanished for a century, has resurfaced in Vienna, stirring waves of excitement and speculation in the art world.

The painting, titled “Portrait of Fraulein Lieser,” once adorned the walls of a Jewish family in Austria and was last publicly displayed in 1925. Its whereabouts remained a mystery thereafter until recently, when it emerged in the possession of the current owners, who have held it since the 1960s.

Im Kinsky auction house, known for its expertise in fine art, appraised the painting’s value at over $54 million (£42 million), deeming its rediscovery nothing short of a sensation.

“In decades, a painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not graced the art market in Central Europe,” the auction house declared in a statement.

The portrait is slated to go under the hammer on April 24, under the auspices of the current owners and the legal successors of the Lieser family, in accordance with the Washington Principles—an international accord aimed at restoring Nazi-looted art to the descendants of its rightful owners.

Before the highly anticipated auction, the masterpiece will be showcased in several international venues, including the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and Hong Kong, according to the auction house.

The painting’s storied past traces back to the Lieser family, prominent Jewish industrialists in Vienna, whose lavish collections adorned their opulent surroundings.

While questions linger regarding the painting’s journey during and after the Second World War, Austrian media reports suggest that no evidence has surfaced thus far indicating that the artwork was looted or stolen.

Gustav Klimt’s artistry has commanded astronomical sums at auctions previously. In June, his iconic piece “Lady with a Fan” fetched a staggering £85.3 million, securing its place as the most valuable work of art ever sold at auction in Europe.

Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent figures of the Vienna Secession movement. Born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, Klimt showed artistic talent from a young age. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, where he later became a decorative painter. Klimt’s work is characterized by intricate patterns, symbolism, and eroticism, often exploring themes of love, desire, and the human condition. He co-founded the Vienna Secession in 1897, a group of artists who rebelled against traditional academic art and sought to promote new artistic styles. Klimt’s most famous works include “The Kiss,” “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” and “Judith and the Head of Holofernes.” His distinctive style, blending symbolism with decorative aesthetics, continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

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