A portrait by Gustav Klimt that disappeared nearly a century ago has been found—and could fetch $54 million when it hits the auction block this spring.
According to Vienna auction house im Kinsky, Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, one of Klimt’s last works, only recently resurfaced in the private collection of an Austrian citizen. It is expected to sell for up to $54 million.
“The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt’s last creative period, is a sensation,” the auction house said in a press statement on its website. The statement added that until now, experts had only seen black and white photographs of the portrait in catalogs of Klimt’s work, which could not convey the intensity and depth of its color.
“A painting of such rarity, artistic significance and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades,” im Kinsky said.
The painting will be appear in a special auction on April 24, on behalf of its current owners and legal successors of the Lieser family.
Recent catalogs of Klimt’s works (2007 and 2012) identify the subject of the portrait as an 18-year-old daughter Margarethe Constance Lieser (b. 1899), the daughter of the industrial magnate Adolf Lieser. New provenance research conducted by the auction house now suggests that two other members of the Lieser family may have served as Klimt’s model: Helene Lieser (b. 1898), the eldest daughter of Henriette Amalie Lieser-Landau and Justus Lieser, or their younger daughter, Annie Lieser (b. 1901). The Lieser family belonged to upper-class Viennese society and were known patrons of the famous Austrian modernist.
Klimt likely started painting the portrait in 1917, only a year before his death from a stroke. The painting—baring a few unfinished spots—was later given to the Lieser family. Its history past 1925 is mostly a mystery. Im Kinsky said it was acquired by a legal predecessor of the consignor in the 1960s and was inherited by the current owner via three successive inheritances.
Portrait of Fräulein Lieser will embark on a worldwide tour before its sale, with planned stops in Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.