Painting discovered in a trash bag could be stolen Klimt | Arts | DW | 12.12.2019
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Arts

Painting discovered in a trash bag could be stolen Klimt

A gardener found an artwork presumed to be Gustav Klimt's valuable "Portrait of a Lady." It was hiding in the walls of the Italian gallery it was stolen from 23 years ago.

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's Portrait of a Lady, a painting that was stolen in 1997, appears to have been hiding ever since in the walls of the Italian gallery from which it was taken, officials said on Wednesday.

A gardener at the Ricci Oddi modern art gallery in the northern city of Piacenza discovered a hidden niche protected by a metal panel while clearing ivy around the building. In the cavity was a plastic rubbish bag containing the artwork.

The gallery staff was immediately alerted: "I was returning from my lunch break and they called me, 'Come, there's an artwork here,'" gallery worker Dario Gallinari told German press agency dpa on Wednesday. "I thought it was a prank."

Gallinari said he immediately recognized it as the missing Klimt. "I have an expert eye," he added.

With shaking hands, he took the picture to the gallery's head of security, and the police was called. Gallinari said the artwork appeared "in excellent condition, with no missing parts."

Police inspect the space where an artwork was found (picture-alliance/dpa/National Polizia di Stato)

The painting spent 22 years tucked away in a wall, close to the ground and vegetation, yet appears to be in excellent condition

The painting is now in police custody for further checks. According to Gallinari, there are "good chances" of its authenticity being confirmed.

Klimt's Portrait of a Lady was painted in 1916-17 and is currently valued at €60 million ($66 million).

It is considered particularly important since, shortly before its disappearance, an art student discovered that it had been painted over another work previously believed lost — a portrait of a young lady that had not been seen since 1912 — making it the only "double" Klimt known to the art world.

When the painting vanished in February 1997, police said they believed thieves had used a fishing line to hook the masterpiece off the wall and haul it up through an open skylight to the gallery roof where the frame was discarded.

Adding to the mystery, a skilled forgery of the painting, wrapped up and posted to a disgraced politician, was seized by authorities a month later.

eg/db (dpa, Reuters, AP)

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