Lost EUR 50 Million Portrait Goes Under The Hammer

A long-lost masterpiece by painter Gustav Klimt has resurfaced for the first time since it was believed to have been looted by the Nazis during World War II.

The 1917 work, Portrait of Fraulein Lieser, was last seen in public in 1925 and is now said to be worth up to EUR 50 million (GBP 42.65 million).

The portrait once belonged to the Lieser family, wealthy Jewish industrialists in Vienna, Austria, but disappeared after its owner was sent to a Nazi death camp in 1942.

Experts only knew of the painting’s existence from a single photograph and it has now emerged that it was kept in a villa on the outskirts of the city since the 1960s.

Now it is set to be auctioned off in a special sale in Vienna on 24th April by leading art sales house im Kinsky.

Photo shows Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). Austrian symbolist painter, undated. ‘Portrait of Miss Lieser’ (1917) will be auctioned at the Kinsky auction house. In Vienna, Austria, on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Newsflash)

The auction house said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “The painting was previously considered lost.

“For many decades, this important work of art was secretly in Austrian private ownership.”

They added: “The rediscovery of the female portrait, which is one of the most beautiful portraits of Klimt’s last creative period, is a sensation.

“As a key figure of Viennese Art Nouveau, Gustav Klimt symbolises fin de siècle Austrian modernism like no other.

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“His works, especially his portraits of successful women from the upper middle class at the turn of the century, enjoy the highest recognition worldwide.

“Klimt’s paintings play in the top league on the international art market. His portraits of women are a great rarity at auction.

Photo shows Kinsky auction house. In Vienna, Austria, undated. ‘Portrait of Miss Lieser’ (1917) by Gustav Klimt will be auctioned on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Newsflash)

“For decades, the art market in Central Europe has not been able to present a painting that was comparable in rarity, artistic rank and value.

“This is especially true in Austria, where no work of even close importance was offered.”

Before the sale the painting will go on a world tour to be exhibited in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and Hong Kong.

Klimt’s art has fetched huge sums at recent auctions.

His Lady with a Fan portrait sold for GBP 85.3 million last June making it the most valuable work of art ever sold at auction in Europe.

The sale is being staged on behalf of the current owners and the legal successors of the Lieser family, the auction house said.

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The auction is based on the Washington Principles, an international agreement to return Nazi-looted art to the descendants of the people they were taken from.

im Kinsky explained that the Lieser family were wealthy industrialists from Austria’s upper-class.

The statement said: “The Lieser family belonged to the circle of wealthy, upper-class Viennese society in which Klimt found his patrons and clients.

“The brothers Adolf and Justus Lieser were among the leading industrialists in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau, known as ‘Lilly’. Was married to Justus Lieser until 1905 and was a patron in the circles of the artistic avant-garde.

Photo shows ‘Der Blinde’ (The Blind Man) 1896. Oil on canvas, one of the paintings of Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). (Newsflash)

“In the oeuvre catalogs of Klimt’s paintings it is said that Adolf Lieser commissioned Gustav Klimt to paint a portrait of his eighteen-year-old daughter Margarethe Constance.

“However, there is some evidence to suggest that Klimt was commissioned by the art-loving Lilly Lieser to immortalize one of her two daughters in paintings.”

im Kinsky said that the fate of the portrait between 1925 through World War II is uncertain.

But they say it is being put up for auction by a legal heir of the family who has owned it since the 1960s.

They explained: “The exact fate of the picture after 1925 is unclear.

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“What is certain is that it was acquired by a legal predecessor of the consignor in the 1960s and passed to the current owner in three inheritances.”

Local media said that a 1925 photo of the painting in Austria’s National Library listed it as “in the possession of Mrs. Lieser, IV, Argentinierstrasse 20”. Which was Henriette Lieser’s address.

The heiress remained in Vienna despite the Nazi regime but was deported and died in a concentration camp in 1942.

After the end of the war, her daughters achieved the restitution of their assets but did not mention the painting or even demand it back.

The auction brochure explains: “All other members of the Lieser family affected by reprisals by the National Socialists felt the same way.”*

The auction house believes the modernist masterpiece was painted in May 1917, following nine sittings at Klimt’s studio.

Photo shows ‘Portrait of Miss Lieser’ (1917) by Gustav Klimt, undated. The painting by the Austrian painter that has been lost for around 100 years, will be auctioned at the Vienna auction house ‘imKinsky’. On Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Newsflash)

They explained: “The painter chooses a three-quarter portrait for his depiction and depicts the young woman in a strict frontal pose. Moved close to the foreground of the picture, against a red, undefined background.

“A cloak richly decorated with flowers is draped around her shoulders.”

To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Joseph GolderSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash

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