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This Klimt Portrait Disappeared for a Century. Now It Could Fetch $54 Million at Auction.

The art market is no stranger to blockbuster sales, but an upcoming one this year is quite a marvel.

A Gustav Klimt painting last seen in the mid-1920s is expected to hammer down for up to 50 million euros ($54.4 million) when it goes to auction in April, The Washington Post reported on Friday. Portrait of Fräulein Lieser was exhibited around 1925 before it disappeared. It resurfaced in 2022, when the anonymous owner approached the auction house im Kinsky, which is now holding the sale.

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“The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt’s last creative period, is a sensation,” im Kinsky said in a statement. “A painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades.”

The 31-by-55-inch portrait depicts an unknown member of the Lieser family, who were part of Vienna’s upper class. The subject visited Klimt’s studio nine times in 1917, according to the auction house, and parts of the painting were still unfinished when the artist died in early 1918. The work, though, was given to the Lieser family—and it’s journey since then is a bit unknown.

Ernst Ploil, a managing director at im Kinsky, told the Post in an email that the painting had been passed down in the current owner’s family since the 1960s. The auction house did its due diligence and could not find any evidence that the portrait had been looted, confiscated, or taken out of Austria during the Nazi era. Still, it’s not sure whether the Klimt was ever stolen, so it reached an agreement with the current owner and the Lieser family to bring the painting to auction.

Prior to the April 24 sale, Portrait of Fräulein Lieser will travel around the world, including to Germany, Switzerland, Britain, and Hong Kong. While it’s set to bring in some $50 million, that’s still far less than other Klimt paintings: In 2006, his Adele Bloch-Bauer I hammered down for $135 million. And last year, Lady With a Fan achieved $108 million.

Fräulein Lieser may not be anticipated to reach into the hundreds of millions, but she has a pretty great story to back up a multimillion-dollar price tag. Worth the 100-year wait, indeed.

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