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Gustav Klimt Stolen Art Found

There is something exciting about the idea of a high profile art heist. When the Portrait of a Lady by Gustav Klimt was stolen from Galleria d’Arte Moderna Ricci Oddi in Piacenza in 1997. At the time, the theft made headlines and police were unable to make any progress catching the culprit. When we wrote about the case in 2014, the authorities were still unable to find any clues to the missing piece’s whereabouts.

The Portrait of a Lady is part of a group of female portraits made ​​by Klimt in his last years and due to the infamous nature of it would be hard to sell on the black market. It is also the only time Klimt painted over a portrait with another portrait, making it almost impossible to forge. It was a common practice among artists, but not one that Klimt often used. The piece also had stamps linking it to the original Klimt’s exhibition history, further validating it as the real thing.

The discovery of the missing piece was by pure luck. The gardeners were clearing away ivy from one of the exterior walls when they discovered a small hole and inside was the missing Klimt. It’s unclear if the painting has been there the entire time, or if the piece was moved from that spot, only to be returned. The painting shows no signs of severe damage and experts say it looks to be in excellent condition for 24 years of potential exposure to the elements. The thief’s identity is still a mystery, although the police are hoping to find possible DNA evidence on the canvas itself to test.

Already there has been talk of book or movie rights being sold. The museum is planning to celebrate the painting’s return by promoting an exhibition including other great Klimt works being held in Rome and Venice. If the piece were to go up for auction, it is estimated to go for over 87 million dollars, which is the same amount the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II sold for in 2006. This has turned into a happy ending for a long-time mystery. You can see more of his art in our Gustav Klimt gallery or our Symbolism gallery.

Amanda Hadley

About the Author

Amanda graduated from the University of Kansas, where she studied English literature and got a masters degree in library sciences. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her nephews. Her best friend is her little dog Brady.