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Painting by Gustav Klimt believed lost has resurfaced

A previously unknown work by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, titled "Portrait of Miss Lieser" from 1917, was unveiled by the auction house Im Kinsky in Vienna. The painting, measuring 140 by 80 centimeters, was privately owned in Austria for decades and has been passed down within the family.

Anadolu Agency ART
Published January 26,2024

A work by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, previously known to experts only from a black-and-white photograph, was presented to the public by the auction house Im Kinsky in Vienna on Thursday.

The painting Portrait of Miss Lieser dates from 1917 and is, therefore, from the world-famous artist's late work.

The painting, which measures 140 by 80 centimeters, was privately owned in Austria for decades and was passed on several times within the family, as reported by the Austrian public broadcaster ORF.

The latest heir wants to have it auctioned off and contacted a lawyer and Kinsky co-director Ernst Ploil. "You see, Klimts like this come your way quite easily. You just have to wait," Ploil told the broadcaster.

Michael Kovacek, the second managing director of the auction house, called it a "great thing" that a work of such rare value and rank could be offered on the art market in this country.

Bids from all over the world are expected for the auction. As Kovacek explained to ORF, the painting "could fetch up to €70 million ($76 million)."

The "Portrait of Miss Lieser" can be viewed at the Kinsky in Vienna for around two weeks before the auction date. The painting will also be shown at several locations in Europe and Southeast Asia - for example, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.

However, there is a problematic gap in the history of the painting's owners between 1925 and the 1960s. This period also coincides with the National Socialist regime in Austria.

There is no evidence of "unlawful expropriation," although intensive research has been carried out, Kovacek told ORF. "There is, therefore, no evidence that the work was looted, stolen, or otherwise unlawfully seized before or during the Second World War," he added.

It is known that after the painter's death on February 6, 1918, the work was initially returned to the person who commissioned it.

As the co-managing director of the auction house, Ploil explained to the broadcaster, the next trace of the painting did not reappear until 1925. It was seen that year at an exhibition at Otto Kallir-Nirenstein's Neue Galerie in Vienna.

According to Ploil, the black-and-white photo was also taken at this exhibition. According to the inventory card for the painting, in 1925, the picture still belonged to Henriette Lieser, a Jewish patron of the art scene in Vienna.

Lieser remained in Vienna despite the Nazi regime and was deported and murdered in 1942. According to the auction house, her daughters did enforce the restitution of her assets after the end of the Second World War but never mentioned the painting or even demanded its return.