Gustav Klimt’s painting Portrait of a lady (1917) will be exhibited for the first time following its dramatic discovery in the walls of the gallery where it was stolen almost 23 years ago. The painting was found in 2019 when a gardener working for the Ricci-Oddi Modern Art Gallery in Piacenza, Italy, removed a metal panel outside the venue, revealing the Klimt, which had presumably been put away when of the aborted flight.
The portrait was originally due to be exhibited at the Northern Italy Gallery in 2020 as part of a series of exhibitions dedicated to the painter of the Viennese Secession, but the opening has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers announced on Friday that the painting would finally be unveiled to the public in October at the Museum of Rome at Palazzo Braschi in an exhibition exploring Klimt’s period in Italy, which left a deep mark on his work. His use of gold leaf is said to have been inspired by a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
The work will be on display for five months before returning to Ricci-Oddi Modern, which also plans to display the portrait. Klimt completed the painting in 1917, a year before his death, and it was acquired by the Ricci Oddi Gallery in 1925. It depicts a young woman believed to be the artist’s lover. She is presented in front of a dark green background, glancing over her shoulder.
In 1997, ten months before the flight, an x-ray scan revealed that Klimt had created Portrait of a lady by painting on the previous piece. An exhibition centered on the discovery of “double painting” is organized and the portrait disappears in the middle of its preparation. Its broken frame was discovered on the roof of the gallery, leading investigators to believe that the artwork may have been removed from the wall and rolled up in a line through a skylight opened by someone connected to the gallery. .
When rediscovered in December 2019, Jonathan Papamerenghi, a member of the board of Piacenza, told the Italian publication The Republic that it was “the most wanted stolen painting in the world after that of Caravaggio Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence. “It’s estimated to be worth around $ 70 million.
In March, the Italian publication Arts Culture & Style reported that prosecutors dropped charges against three people who claimed to have been suspected of being involved in the 1997 robbery. The suspects said they handed the painting to the gallery wall as a “gift” to town, but prosecutors weren’t convinced by their story.
“They have been obscure about the details but have always maintained that the painting was not in the cavity the entire time,” said Ermanno Mariani, an Italian journalist first contacted by the alleged thieves. Guardian in January. “I’m not a technical expert, but it would have been damaged if it had been there for all these years.”