Klimt castle sold for pounds 14.5m

A saleroom battle between two bidders left the London art market agog yesterday when a monumental landscape by Gustav Klimt sold for a record pounds 14.5m at Christie's - more than double the expected price.

It was the highest sum paid for a picture at auction in London since 1988, the highest in the world this year and a record for the Austrian artist.

Depicting a romantic house, Schloss Kammer am Attersee II was painted in 1909 while Klimt was holidaying with his mistress, Emilie Floge, on the shore of Lake Attersee, near Salzburg. The four other paintings from the celebrated series are in national museums in Vienna and Prague.

Christie's experts had expected the Vienna artist's work to fetch "in excess of pounds 6m" but were taken by surprise by the final price. Bidding began at pounds 3.7m but rapidly climbed during three minutes of frenzied action at the King Street salesroom, London. One of the bidders was at the salesroom and the other, who won the duel, was an anonymous phone bidder.

"The previous record for a Klimt was pounds 9m so the price is astonishing" said a Christie's spokeswoman.

Born in 1862, Klimt was Austria's principle Art Nouveau painter but took up a more realistic style before his death in 1918.

A drawing by Michelangelo was also expected to fetch millions. Unveiled in London, it will be offered for sale in New York next January for an estimated pounds 4m. Christ and the Woman of Samaria, one of the few drawings by Michelangelo remaining in private hands, has been consigned for sale by the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Geneva to establish an acquisition fund.

The powerful 17-inch by 13-inch black-chalk study of two figures is among the largest in scale of any of Michelangelo's drawings except for his cartoons.

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