Gustav Klimt. Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Woman by Gustav Klimt

Portrait of a Woman by Gustav Klimt: the abduction and mysterious return of the painting

Portrait of a Woman is one of the most famous works of the Austrian modernist painter Gustav Klimt. The painter created this picture at the peak of his career. This picture was one of the last. The author put all his skill into the picture. And the descendants appreciated it – the cost of the canvas reached 66 million dollars.

Gustav Klimt. Portrait of a Woman
Gustav Klimt. Portrait of a Woman

Painting theft

In 1997, everyone was discussing deafening news: a masterpiece created by Gustav Klimt was stolen from a modern art gallery located in the Italian town of Piacenza.

A stolen painting by Gustav Klimt was accidentally discovered by a gardener who decided to thin out thickets of ivy. He noticed a small depression in the wall. Attention was attracted by a bag lying in a niche. When I unfolded it, I saw some canvas. Gallery staff identified the painting stolen twenty-three years ago. So, quite by accident, a work was found that was on the list of the most wanted stolen art.

“Portrait of a Woman” is one of Klimt’s most recognizable works. For this reason, art historians believed that it was unlikely that it would ever be on the black market. Most likely, this work by an Austrian modernist artist was stolen from the gallery by order of some collector.

When exactly Gustav Klimt painted the picture is unknown. But there is a conditional period – 1916-1917. The masterpiece is drawn in a lively expressionist style. The artist depicted a young, spectacular, cheerful lady with bright blue eyes. A green background was used, which emphasizes the beauty of the dark-haired model.

Gustav Klimt. Photo
Gustav Klimt. Photo

History of painting

The painting belongs to a series of female portraits. Some of the works the artist did not have time to complete before his death. Gustav Klimt sought to capture models of different social strata: his muses were both aristocratic ladies and young girls forced to sell their bodies. The unusual style that the artist chose for this female portrait is explained by his worldview and the peculiarities of his personal life.

There were many tragedies in his life: he had to endure the death of his beloved, the sudden death of his father and brother. Klimt was constantly stormy, so violent emotionality was reflected in the works of the painter.

The artist depicted the lady slightly leaning forward, as if she rushed towards someone. Klimt chose this choice of pose not by chance: in this way he strengthened the elegance of the model’s figure. There is a recognizable feature characteristic of the Austrian painter – a blush on the cheeks. Thanks to this, the heroine seems more attractive and energetic. Dark, well-defined eyebrows accentuate the depth of wide-open blue eyes. The woman’s mouth is slightly open, so we can appreciate the whiteness of the teeth.

Comparison of the poses of women in the paintings of Gustav Klimt
Comparison of the poses of women in the paintings of Gustav Klimt

A bright accent in the appearance of the lady depicted in this famous Klimt masterpiece is lips painted with red lipstick. An interesting feature of appearance is a playful black mole, located a couple of centimeters from the eye. The lady is wearing a light dress with a floral print.

Pay attention to how harmoniously the artist works with color. The rosebuds on the clothes are made in the same tone as the lipstick. The green-blue hues echo the tint of the young woman’s eyes.

Painting with a double bottom “Portrait of a Woman” by Klimt is a work full of surprises.

A few months before her mysterious abduction, 18-year-old art student Claudia Maga made an unexpected discovery. Studying the works of the Austrian painter, she came to the conclusion that the “Portrait of a Woman” is very similar to another Klimt canvas.

Unfortunately, the second painting was considered lost, but its reproduction has been preserved. It depicted a young girl, the artist’s lover, who passed away early. Claudia drew attention to the similarity of the poses and figures of the girls from both paintings. Art historians conducted an experiment: they enlarged the images and superimposed them on each other: the general outlines of the figures turned out to be almost identical.

Therefore, it is logical to assume that it was painful for Klimt to look at the portrait of his beloved who had passed away and he decided to paint another picture based on this work. Experts are convinced that this is the only known “double work” of the Austrian artist.