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Lost Gustav Klimt Painting Portrait Sold at Vienna Auction for $32M Amidst Nazi Loot Speculations

The Record-Breaking Sale

The ‘Lost’ Gustav Klimt painting Portrait of Fraulein Lieser just recently sold at the Kinsky auction house in Vienna to a Hong Kong buyer for thirty-two million dollars. That is the highest sale price ever for any Vienna auction house in history.

The Controversy Unveiled

However, there might be a problem with the sale since a claim was filed with Austria’s Federal Monuments Office, which handles the protections of Austrian cultural heritage. The claim was filed by a potential heir of Adolph Lieser, the brother of the women believed to be the subject of the portrait. The Lieser family was a wealthy Jewish family of industrialists and patrons of Viennese art until World War II, during which many of its members perished in the Holocaust.

lost klimt painting lieser portrait found after 100 years!

The portrait was started towards the end of Klimt’s career and life in 1917 and found unfinished in his studio after his death by a stroke in February 1918. It was given as is to the family who commissioned it at that time, but then, according to the Kinsky Auction house, there is a forty year gap before it came into the hands of the recent seller. It might be that it fell into Nazi possession during that time frame but the auction house checked and no claims by the Lieser family had been filed during that time. The Kinsky auction house that sold the ‘Lost’ Klimt has faced scrutiny in the past about selling stolen controversial artwork.

The Subject of the Painting

The young women who is the subject of the painting could be either Mararethe Lieser or Helene Lieser, depending on which side of the family commissioned it. Klimt was known for his wonderful portraits of high society members in Austria, such as the Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer which had its own controversial past. The ‘Portrait of Fraulein Lieser’ features a woman with a brightly colored scarf, showing Klimt’s signature use of symbolic shapes, with a vibrant colored wall behind her. The woman’s facial features are reminiscent of the other Klimt portrait’s the world admires.

Famous Klimt portrait of Adelle Bloch Bauer

Klimt’s Legacy and the Nazi Looting

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter who was known for his prestigious portraits and his use of sensual subject matter. Many of his art pieces were looted during World War II by the Nazi’s and many have ended up in court battles for ownership. As a result, his artwork is often some of the highest paid auction pieces around the globe.

While you wait to see how the fate of this piece turns out, you can browse our Gustav Klimt gallery to own a piece of art history that is entirely your own.

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.