Art & History

Famous Stolen Paintings – Gustav Klimt [Part 4]

Portrait of a Lady | Gustav Klimt

Portrait of a Lady is an 1916-17 oil on canvas painting by Gustav Klimt. The painting measures 60 by 55 centimetres (24 in × 22 in). It depicts a portrait of a female figure, composed in an unusually lively expressionistic style. It was acquired by the Galleria Ricci-Oddi in Piacenza in 1925.

Believed to have been stolen shortly before a special exhibition was planned at the gallery in Piacenza. 

In 1996, X-ray analysis revealed that the portrait was an overpainted version of Klimt’s lost work Portrait of a Young Lady, which disappeared in 1912. The original portrait showed a women with whom Klimt is believed to have had a love affair; but after she died suddenly, he painted over the work.

The painting was believed stolen in February 1997, shortly before a special exhibition was planned at the gallery. The Italian police authorities discovered a high-quality forgery at Ventimiglia, on the Italian border with France, in April 1997, in a package addressed to the former Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi. The “theft” may have been staged shortly before the exhibition, to cover up the swap of the original painting with the forgery some months before.

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