No record of the mysterious Gustav Klimt painting being sold in Austria

THE Portrait of Miss Lieser, Missing for 100 years, it was sold on Wednesday for 30 million euros, a low estimate for this painting of unclear provenance.

THE Portrait of Miss Lieser by Gustav Klimt, a missing painting that recently resurfaced was sold for 30 million euros in Vienna on Wednesday, a record in Austria despite the gray areas surrounding its provenance. Valued at between 30 and 50 million euros, it will eventually sell at the end of a range of estimates from the house of “im Kinsky”, a far cry from the 86 million euros achieved in June 2023 in London for another canvas by the artist.

This event remains no less historic, “no comparable work” according to Claudia Mörth-Gasser, head of the modern art section at Im Kinsky, it has never been offered in the artist’s native country. “Nobody expected a picture of this importance to reappear, which had disappeared for a hundred years.”he says, while the previous Austrian record stands “only” 7 million euros for a Flemish painting sold in 2010.

This resurrected and unsigned portrait caused a sensation. Especially since it is very well preserved and has never left Austria. Since its unveiling in January, people have rushed to admire it at pre-sale exhibitions in Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain and Hong Kong.

And, of course, at home in a magnificent Baroque palace in the heart of the capital, surrounded by master sketches and other works by contemporaries such as Egon Schiele, which also feature in the sale, which is due to start at 15:00 (15:00 GMT) .

Helene, Annie or Margarethe?

Begun in 1917 and left unfinished, the canvas depicts a young brunette with precise features, adorned in a large cape richly decorated with flowers against a bright red background. The painter died the following year, and the identity of the model is still shrouded in mystery, hotly debated in the professional press.

Who is this young Viennese from the wealthy upper middle class who visited the workshop of the adored genius of his time nine times? Only one thing is certain: he comes from the Lieser family, a great Jewish industrial dynasty, patron of the artistic avant-garde. But is she one of two daughters named Helene and Annie of Henriette (Lilly) Lieser, a wealthy divorcee who pioneered women’s emancipation? Or his brother-in-law Adolf Margaretha, as claimed by the first complete catalog of Klimt’s works, produced in the 1960s? The only known photograph of the painting to date, probably taken in 1925 as part of an exhibition, would suggest that it belonged to Lilly Lieser that year.

Nazi businessman

According to the diary Der Standard, which is based on correspondence archived in an Austrian museum, she may have entrusted it to one of her employees before her death during deportation at the end of 1943. The painting then appeared with a Nazi merchant in front of her daughter, after which it was inherited by distant relatives in order. But for Kinski, who specializes in restitution proceedings, it is a “hypothesis among others”. After the war, the painting, unlike other goods, was never claimed by one of Lieser’s three descendants, all of whom survived.

Claudia Mörth-Gasser, bound by confidentiality, explains to AFP that her employer was contacted two years ago by the owners, who wish to remain anonymous, asking for legal advice. Im Kinsky informed the current beneficiaries of the two Lieser branches, who live mainly in the United States. Some traveled for the painting before signing a contract with the owners, removing the barrier to selling the painting. Nothing has been leaked about the terms of this amicable agreement, and experts criticize the process, which is considered too fast, despite the uncertainty about the fate of the work of immense value.

“Its origin has not yet been fully elucidated”he should have taken time to do a deeper investigation, the weekly reports Profile Monika Mayer, head of the archive at the Belvédère museum, in which they are famous Kiss by Klimt.

The comments were confirmed by Erika Jakubovits, cultural director of the Jewish community in Vienna, which has been involved in the restitution of works of art stolen by the Nazis for decades. “For me “Portrait of Mademoiselle Lieser” still brings up too many unsolved questions “, she explained Republic who conducted a major investigation into the subject image.“I believe that this case should be the subject of an independent and thorough investigation and its history should be accurately reconstructed, as is the case with any image analyzed in restitution. And the investigation should be independent of the auction house, the current owner and the heirs. It would be better to clarify all these questions before selling. In addition, the painting was not presented in the United States for fear that it would be seized by the courts in the event of a dispute, as is the rule for works suspected of robbery.

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