After years of 'hiding,'' Klimt work is a star in Rome show

Mystery still swirls around Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of a Lady” nearly a quarter-century after the painting was stolen from an Italian museum

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 26 October 2021 16:48
Italy Klimt Exhibition
Italy Klimt Exhibition

Mystery still swirls around Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of a Lady” nearly a quarter-century after the painting was stolen from an Italian museum, only to turn up at the start of what would become the coronavirus pandemic.

Who stole the 1917 artwork and how it wound up stashed inside the museum’s outer walls are still unknown. But the portrait of a young woman with a sensuous side glance will be part of a major exhibition about the work of the Austrian artist that opens in Rome on Wednesday.

Experts announced in January 2020 that a painting accidentally discovered the month before by a gardener clearing ivy from the outside walls of the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in Piacenza was indeed the Klimt that had disappeared from the gallery in 1997.

The portrait set against a dreamy, moss green background had been back on display for a matter of weeks when the museum in northern Italy had to close as part of Italy's first coronavirus lockdown. Only relatively few visitors, mainly from the Piacenza area, had been allowed the chance to admire it.

Now, the portrait is just one show-stopper in the new exhibition, which previewed Tuesday, in the Museum of Rome's Palazzo Braschi. Also starring in the exhibition is the last, unfinished painting Klimt worked on before he died in 1918, “Portrait of a Lady in White."

A 34-meter long by 2-meter-high (112 feet by 6.6 feet) frieze mounted on three walls of one of the palazzo's rooms is another dazzling piece. Klimt conceived the frieze, which features sinewy figures and glimmering sections, .as a tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven and the composer's Symphony No. 9.

A few months ago, prosecutors officially closed their investigation into the theft of “Portrait of a Lady,'' with the statute of limitations on the crime having expired and the culprit or culprits never definitively determined.

”It's a true mystery," Jonathan Papamarenghi, the culture commissioner of Piacenza, said while attending Tuesday's preview. “Where it was all the time, including whether it was inside the walls the whole time” it was missing still has no answer, he told reporters.

Titled “Klimt. The Secession and Italy,” the exhibition runs through March 27, 2022, then moves to Piacenza, where show will be aptly called, “Klimt Found Again.”

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