A 1917 artwork named 'Portrait of a Lady' created by the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt and stolen in 1997 from an Italian art gallery has mysteriously found hidden inside the walls of the gallery, solving the decades-long mystery.
The artwork, with an estimated value of $66 million went missing Ricci-Oddi modern art gallery in Piacenza, Italy on February 22, 1997. The theft was considered one of the most notorious art thefts in the recent era. Until now.
Almost 23 years later, a gallery staff who was cleaning the ivy off the walls outside the hall from which the masterpiece was stolen happened to find a secret metal panel that covered a hollow space in one of the walls.
It was here that the painting was found, stuffed in a black bag. Though the gallery is still running checks to confirm the authenticity of the painting, gallery officials appeared confident and believed it was indeed the stolen Klimt.
Meanwhile, police are still investigating how the painting got there, who put it there and whether it was indeed stuffed inside the vault in the wall for nearly 23 years.
Klimt was part of an artistic group known as the Secession who separated from conventional Austrian art and drew inspiration and styles from radical ideas. A large section of Klimt's oeuvre consists of sketches, painting and murals exploring erotica and the female body.
'Portrait of a Young Lady'
The recovered painting in question also has a more delicate personal connection with the artists another than being his creation. It was later discovered by an art student, Claudia Maga, that 'The Portrait of a Lady' was indeed painted over another painting, "The Portrait of a Young Lady". The latter was another of Klimt's artworks that had not been seen since 2012. Art historians established using x-rays that this indeed was the missing painting. The subject of the first painting had been a woman Klimt intimately knew. Her sudden death in real life caused him so much pain that he decided to paint over the original picture.
The original young lady wore a hat and a purple jacket sliding over her bare shoulder. The second version of the painting had the lady wearing a lavender-white jacket and no hat.