Stolen Gustav Klimt Painting Worth $70M to be Displayed After 23 Years

Last year, a missing painting by Gustav Klimt was recovered. For the first time in 23 years, it will be exhibited in the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in Piacenza.

Oct 20, 2020By Charlotte Davis, BA Art History
Portrait of a Young Lady (original) and Portrait of a Lady (painted over) by Gustav Klimt, 1916-17, via BBC

23 years after it was stolen, a painting by Gustav Klimt worth around $70 million will be put on view at the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in Piacenza, Italy. The painting, titled Portrait of a Lady (1916-17), was found recently in the art gallery’s exterior wall by a gardener. It will be exhibited in a protective safety case from November 28th. 

The Ricci Oddi Gallery has plans to livestream the return of Portrait of a Lady on Youtube. The portrait will also feature in four exhibitions at the gallery in the next two years. 


The Recovery Of The Painting In The Ricci Oddi Gallery

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady was originally stolen from the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in 1997. 

A few months prior, there had been a new discovery about the work. A student named Claudia Maga had noticed while looking at some of Gustav Klimt’s work that Portrait of a Lady looked like another Gustav Klimt painting: Portrait of a Young Lady, which had been missing since 1912. 

The Young Lady had a scarf and a hat but they both had in common the same glance over the left shoulder, the same smile and the same beauty spot on the left cheek,” said Maga, “And that was it…The Lady was concealing another portrait beneath it, the only double portrait Klimt has ever painted.”

Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery, via Fahrenheit Magazine

The painting was X-rayed to confirm that Portrait of a Lady was painted over the missing Portrait of a Young Lady and that it was a “double” work by Gustav Klimt. Apparently, Gustav Klimt had been in love with a woman from Vienna who became his muse. However, she died, and Klimt repainted over the work to forget his grief. 

This newfound discovery was to be displayed in an upcoming exhibition near Piacenza’s city hall. However, the painting vanished while the Ricci Oddi Gallery was preparing to move it to be exhibited with this newfound knowledge. 

The art heist was a mystery, confounding investigators. The frame of the portrait was found on the gallery’s roof, but there was no evidence to support that the painting had been pulled up through a skylight. The conflicting evidence of the case ultimately didn’t lead anywhere, and the case was closed due to insufficient evidence. 

Last December, the portrait was discovered by a gardener on the premises inside one of the Ricci Oddi’s exterior walls. It was tucked into a nook that had been grown over by a thick layer of ivy. It was later authenticated as the original work by Gustav Klimt and returned to the Ricci Oddi. 

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Gustav Klimt: Gold-Leaf Symbolist Painter

Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt, 1907, via Neue Gallerie, New York

Gustav Klimt was a prominent symbolist painter and founding member of the Vienna Secession movement. His paintings, drawings, and other art objects are known for their depictions of the female body, which are steeped in frank, upfront eroticism. Like some of his contemporaries, he was strongly influenced by Japanese art. He is also remembered for mentoring another famous painter of expressionism, Egon Schiele

Gustav Klimt’s mature style came with his founding of the Vienna Secession movement, which rejected traditional notions of academic art in favor of styles more similar to Art Nouveau. Gustav Klimt then combined this highly decorative style with the use of gold leaf, which is now called his Golden Phase and includes some of his most famous works.

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By Charlotte DavisBA Art HistoryCharlotte is a contributing writer from Portland, Oregon now based in London, England. I’m an art historian with extensive knowledge in art history, classics, ancient art and archaeology.