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Portrait of Klimt missing for almost a century is sold for R$165 million

A portrait of Gustav Klimt that had not been seen for almost a century was sold for US$32 million (R$165 million).

“Portrait of Fräulein Lieser,” considered one of the Austrian painter’s final works, created enormous excitement in the art world but ended up selling at the low end of its valuation of 30 to 50 million euros ($32 million to 53.4 million).

Bidding started at 28 million euros (R$154 million), and the work was sold for 30 million euros (R$165 million). This does not include auction house fees.

The sale price was less than half the price fetched by another Klimt painting – “Dame mit Fächer” (Lady with a Fan) – in London last year. The portrait, which was the last completed by Klimt, became the most expensive work of art ever sold at a European auction, reaching 85.3 million pounds (US$106.4 million or R$547.7 million).

The “Portrait of Fräulein Lieser” had long been considered lost, according to the Vienna auction house im Kinsky. However, it was recently discovered that it was the private property of an Austrian citizen.

“The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt’s last creative period, is a sensation,” said the auction house in a press release on its website, ahead of its sale on Wednesday afternoon (24).

The intensely vivid and colorful piece has been documented in catalogs of the artist's works, but experts have only seen it in a black and white photo.

It is known that the young woman was a member of a wealthy Austrian Jewish family that was part of the upper class of Viennese society, where Klimt found his patrons and clients. However, her identity is not entirely certain.

The brothers Adolf and Justus Lieser were important industrialists in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Catalogs of Klimt's work state that Adolf commissioned the artist to paint his teenage daughter Margarethe Constance. However, new research from the auction house suggests that Justus' wife, Lilly, commissioned him to paint one of her two daughters.

The statement on the auctioneer's website reveals that the model – whoever she was – visited Klimt's studio nine times in April and May 1917. He made at least 25 preliminary studies and probably began the painting in May of that year.

“The painter chose a three-quarter portrait for his representation and shows the young woman in a strictly frontal pose, close to the foreground, with a red and undefined background. A cloak richly decorated with flowers hangs from his shoulders,” the auction house said.

He added: “The painting’s intense colors and shift to loose, open brushstrokes show Klimt at the height of his late period.”

When the artist died, as a result of a stroke, the following February, the painting was still in his studio — with some small parts still unfinished. It was then handed over to the Lieser family.

Its exact fate after 1925 is “unclear,” according to the auction house. “What is known is that it was acquired by a legal predecessor of the consignor in the 1960s and passed to the current owner through three successive inheritances”, says the statement.

The painting would be sold on behalf of its unnamed Austrian owners along with the legal successors of “Adolf and Henriette Lieser based on an agreement in accordance with the 1998 Washington Principles,” the auction house said.

Established in 1998, the Washington Principles tasked participating nations with returning art confiscated by the Nazis to their rightful owners. Claudia Mörth-Gasser, a modern art specialist at im Kinsky, explained the situation in an email to CNN.

She said the auctioneer checked the history and provenance of the painting “in every possible way in Austria”, adding: “We checked all the archives and found no evidence that the painting was exported outside of Austria, confiscated or looted. ”.

But equally, she added: “We have no evidence that the painting was ever looted in the time span between 1938 and 1945.”

And this is the reason “we arranged an agreement between the current owner and all descendants of the Lieser family in accordance with the 'Washington Principles,'” she said.

Klimt’s portraits of women “are rarely offered at auction,” the press release stated. He continued: “A painting of such rarity, artistic significance and value has not been available on the central European art market for decades.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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