One of the last paintings by the Art Nouveau painter Gustav Klimt is going under the hammer today at the Kinsky auction house in Vienna. The “Portrait of Fräulein Lieser”, dated 1917, is estimated to be worth between 30 and 50 million euros. The colorful portrait was long considered lost. The auction house announced in advance that it had been secretly owned by Austrian private owners for decades.

The current owners inherited it from distant relatives about two years ago. The rediscovery of the important female portrait, which is one of the most beautiful works from Klimt’s (1862-1918) last creative period, was a sensation, it was said. The 140 by 80 centimeter picture shows a young woman in a strict frontal pose against a red background. A cloak richly decorated with flowers lies around her shoulders.

The Lieser family, who commissioned the portrait, belonged to the wealthy Viennese upper middle class. The industrial family was later persecuted during the Nazi era because of their Jewish descent. According to the auction house, after intensive research, there is no evidence that the painting was confiscated at the time.

Was the painting stolen during the Nazi era?

“Conversely, no evidence was found that the painting was not stolen between 1938 and 1945,” said an online video about the auction. Therefore, an agreement was reached between the current owners and descendants of the Lieser family, according to which the family’s claims would be settled from the proceeds of the auction. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Klimt probably started the picture in May 1917, as the well-documented creative process suggests. The sitter – it is unclear which member of the family shows the motif – visited him in his studio nine times. According to the auction house, 25 preliminary studies were created.

Klimt died shortly before completion

When the painter died in February 1918 as a result of a stroke, the work was partially unfinished. “The fact that this picture was not signed by Klimt shows that he himself did not consider the portrait to be finished,” says the work description.

In 1918, Klimt could count on around 15,000 crowns as wages. This amount, which is quite typical for a work by the artist, corresponds to around a third of the value of a villa in the Salzkammergut at the time, it was said.

The fact that the portrait is not being auctioned in London or New York, but by the much smaller Viennese auction house in Kinsky, is due to its many years of experience with Klimt’s works and its expertise in dealing with so-called looted art cases, i.e. works of art that were stolen during the Nazi era. According to the auction house, the items were confiscated and confiscated at some time.