Gustav klimt’s rediscovered painting faces provenance questions ahead of vienna auction.

After nearly a century of obscurity, a painting by the renowned symbolist artist Gustav Klimt, titled “Bildnis Fraeulein Lieser” (Portrait of Miss Lieser), is set to go under the hammer at an auction in Vienna on Wednesday, despite lingering doubts surrounding its provenance.

Commissioned in 1917 by a wealthy Jewish industrialist’s family, the unfinished portrait of a dark-haired woman was one of Klimt’s final works before his death. Its last known appearance was at a Viennese exhibition in 1925 until it resurfaced this year, announced for sale by the auction house im Kinsky.

Claudia Moerth-Gasse, an expert at im Kinsky, expressed surprise at the painting’s reappearance, stating that its significance, having been lost for a century, was unexpected. Portraits by Klimt rarely appear on the open market, and the estimated value of the painting ranges from 30 to 50 million euros.

While the identity of the model remains a mystery, she is believed to be associated with the Lieser family, a prominent Jewish industrial dynasty. The painting’s history becomes intertwined with the tragic events of World War II, as Henriette (Lilly) Lieser, the family’s matriarch, was deported to Auschwitz and murdered.

Before her death, Lilly Lieser entrusted the painting to a member of her staff, eventually leading to its possession by a Nazi trader. The painting’s journey through subsequent generations raises questions about its acquisition, although im Kinsky claims to have found no evidence of theft or unlawful seizure.

Despite assurances from the auction house, concerns persist regarding the painting’s provenance. Monika Mayer, head of archives at the Belvedere museum, emphasized the need for further investigation, citing unresolved issues surrounding the painting’s history.

Additionally, the decision not to present the painting in the United States reflects apprehensions about potential legal disputes, as seen in previous cases involving disputed Austrian artworks.

Austrian museums have engaged in restitution procedures, returning several art pieces to descendants of Jewish collectors, highlighting the ongoing efforts to address historical injustices and ensure transparency in the art world.