Family realises painting they’d had since 60s is £42m MASTERPIECE lost for a century…but no one knows how they’d got it

Family realises painting they’d had since 60s is £42m MASTERPIECE lost for a century…but no one knows how they’d got it

A FAMILY has discovered a painting they’d owned since 1960s is actually a masterpiece that has been lost for a century.

The resurfaced painting is estimated to be worth £42 million – but it remains a mystery how the family obtained the art piece.

AFP‘Bildnis Fraeulein Lieser’ (Portrait of Miss Lieser) by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt[/caption]

AFPThe painting will be auctioned on April 24 in Vienna and showcased in the UK, Germany and Hong Kong before that[/caption]

AFPThe artwork is estimated to be worth £42 million[/caption]

The valuable portrait is one of the latest works of Gustav Klimt – a renowned Austrian painter- before he passed away.

The painting, titled Portrait of Fraulein Leiser, shows a dark-haired woman draped in a picturesque robe.

She appears youthful with blushing cheeks, fair skin and bright lips – realistic features which are characteristic to Klimt’s style.

It was commissioned by a wealthy industrialist Jewish family and painted by Klimt in 1917 – just a year before his death.

The portrait disappeared from the public eye after the Viennese exhibition in 1925.

The black-and-white photograph commemorated the last sighting of the painting and remained the only proof of its existence for the past 100 years.

A member of Leiser family was believed to be the owner of the masterpiece at the time.

Henriette Lieser remained in Vienna despite the Nazi rule but was deported in 1942 and tragically murdered in Auschwitz in 1943.

The painting’s fate after that is unclear but the current owners possessed the artwork since the 1960s.

The art piece has resurfaced after the current owner sought legal advice from lawyer and art law expert Ernst Ploil before inheriting it.

The story of how the family acquired the painting remains wrapped up in mystery despite the thorough research.

“We have a gap between 1925 and the 1960s,” Ploil told the journalists on Thursday.

But he emphasised that they had not found any proof the piece had been looted, stolen or forcibly taken before or during World War II.

According to Ploil, there are “no stamps, no stickers, nothing” on the painting’s “completely untouched” back.

“There are no indications of any illegal confiscation during the Nazi era, i.e. the usual stamps from the Gestapo or a shipping house where looted art was stored,” he added.

The portrait will now be auctioned on April 24 on behalf of the owners and the Lieser family’s legal heirs who have a claim to the inheritance based on the Washington Principles.

The 1998 international pact set out the procedure to restore Nazi-obtained art to the true successors.

The descendants of the Lieser’s family have not commented on the discovery but some of them have travelled to Vienna to see the painting in-person.

Before the artwork is to be sold, it will be showcased in the UK, Switzerland, Germany and Hong Kong.

Im Kinksy, the auction house in Vienna, said in a statement: “The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt’s last creative period, is a sensation.

“His work, particularly his portraits of successful women from the upper middle class at the turn of the century, enjoy the highest recognition worldwide.

“Klimt’s paintings rank in the top echelons of the international art market.

“His portraits of women are seldom offered at auctions.

“A painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades.”

Klimt was known for his portrayals of female body, which gained him a recognition and still sell for eye-watering amount at auctions to this day.

Klimt’s The Lady with a Fan sold for £85.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last June.

It set a new record for any work of art sold at auction in Europe.

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