Gustav Klimt’s Lost Portrait, Missing for a Century, Emerges in Vienna

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A long-lost portrait by Gustav Klimt, missing for almost a century, has been located and is poised to go under the hammer this spring, with estimates suggesting it could fetch as much as $54 million. Vienna auction house im Kinsky revealed that the Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, among Klimt’s final masterpieces, recently emerged from the private collection of an Austrian individual. The artwork, deemed one of Klimt’s most captivating creations from his late period, had been previously known only through black and white photographs in Klimt’s catalogs, lacking the vibrancy of its actual colors.

The auction house expressed excitement over the rediscovery, emphasizing the portrait’s rarity, artistic importance, and considerable value, noting that such a painting had not been accessible in Central European art markets for decades. Scheduled for a special auction on April 24, the painting will be presented on behalf of its present owners and legal successors of the Lieser family.

Recent research by im Kinsky suggests that the subject of the portrait may be either Margarethe Constance Lieser (born 1899), daughter of industrial magnate Adolf Lieser, or two other Lieser family members: Helene Lieser (born 1898), the eldest daughter of Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau and Justus Lieser, and Annie Lieser (born 1901). The Lieser family, prominent in Viennese society, were patrons of the renowned Austrian modernist.

Klimt likely commenced the portrait in 1917, a year before his demise from a stroke. The painting, displaying a few incomplete areas, was subsequently gifted to the Lieser family, with its history becoming a mystery after 1925. Acquired by a legal predecessor in the 1960s, the artwork passed through three successive inheritances to reach its current owner.

Before hitting the auction block, Portrait of Fräulein Lieser will undertake a global tour, with planned exhibitions in Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.

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