Vienna, Austria – A long-lost masterpiece by the renowned Austrian artist Gustav Klimt has been unearthed after nearly a century of obscurity. The portrait, titled “Fraulein Lieser,” once owned by a prosperous Jewish family in Austria, had vanished from public view since 1925 before resurfacing in Vienna.
The painting, valued at over $54 million (£42 million) by the im Kinsky auction house, is considered a sensational rediscovery. Im Kinsky expressed its rarity, artistic significance, and substantial value, noting that such a masterpiece has not been available on the Central European art market for decades.
Belonging to the Lieser family, affluent Jewish industrialists in Vienna, the portrait’s mysterious disappearance over the years had led to speculation about its fate. However, the family of the current owners has possessed the artwork since the 1960s.
The upcoming auction, scheduled for April 24, is in accordance with the Washington Principles—an international agreement aimed at returning Nazi-looted art to the descendants of the original owners. The Lieser family’s legal successors will oversee the auction, seeking a rightful resolution in line with these principles.
Prior to the auction, the masterpiece will be exhibited at various international locations, including the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and Hong Kong, offering art enthusiasts an opportunity to appreciate this long-lost gem.
Ernst Ploil, co-Managing Director of Kinsky Auction House, clarified that their exhaustive research has not uncovered evidence indicating that the artwork was looted or stolen before or during World War II. He shared insights into the active approach taken, stating, “The painting is described as lost in all catalogues raisonnés of Klimt’s work. In our circles, ‘lost’ means probably destroyed, probably burnt during the war, but in any case, no longer in existence; it was not to be expected that it would ever reappear.”
Gustav Klimt, a prominent figure in the Art Nouveau movement, left an indelible mark on the art world. Born in 1862 in Baumgarten, near Vienna, Klimt co-founded the Vienna Secession—a group of artists who sought artistic independence. He became renowned for his distinctive style characterized by ornate, decorative elements, and symbolism. Klimt’s works often explored themes of love, life, and the human experience.
One of his most celebrated masterpieces, “The Kiss,” exemplifies Klimt’s fascination with the intertwining of love and spirituality. Additionally, Klimt’s art has consistently commanded staggering prices at auctions, with notable examples such as “Lady with a Fan,” which sold for an impressive £85.3 million in June, making it the most valuable work of art ever sold at auction in Europe.
The rediscovery of the “Fraulein Lieser” portrait not only adds a fascinating chapter to Klimt’s artistic legacy but also raises intriguing questions about the journey and fate of artworks during tumultuous periods in history. As art enthusiasts eagerly await the auction, the significance of this find resonates beyond its monetary value, offering a glimpse into the intricate tapestry of art history and the resilience of cultural treasures.