Gustav Klimt’s Last Portrait Expected to Sell for More Than $80 M. at Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s will auction the last portrait by Gustav Klimt, the 1917 painting Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan), with the expectation that it will sell for over £65 million ($80 million), a record estimate for a painting in the United Kingdom and Europe.

The auction house is promoting the painting, which previously sold at Sotheby’s in New York in 1994 for $11.6 million with fees, as “the star of the summer auction season in London” as well as “one of the finest and most valuable works of art ever to be offered in Europe.” It will head to sale on June 27.

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Sotheby’s high estimate for Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) was based on previous auction and private sales of the Austrian artist’s work and the fact that most of Klimt’s golden period commissioned portraits are held by museums. This means very few are ever available for public or private sale.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912), for example, sold at Christie’s in New York for a record $87.9 million with fees in November 2006, more than 3.5 times the high end of its $18 million–$25 million estimate. According to Bloomberg, the buyer was Oprah Winfrey, who reportedly sold the work privately for around $150 million in 2016. According to the Art Newspaper, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was reportedly sold to Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie in New York for $135 million in 2006.

Frauenbildnis, portrait of Ria Munk III sold at Christie’s in London in 2010 for $27.9 million with fees (£18.8 million). In 2017, Sotheby’s sold Klimt’s 1907 scenic garden work Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) for $59.1 million (£48 million) as part of its Impressionist and modern art evening sale in London. Last month, Klimt’s waterscape, Insel im Atterseesold at Sotheby’s in New York for $53.2 million to a private Japanese collector after a seven-minute-long bidding war, well exceeding its estimated price around $45 million.

Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) was acquired shortly after the death of the artist by Erwin Böhler, an industrialist in Vienna. Böhler’s family were close friends and patrons of both Klimt and the painter Egon Schiele. The family even vacationed with Klimt at a lake near Salzburg that served as the inspiration for many of the artist’s landscape works and were photographed there together.

The painting was eventually passed to Erwin’s brother Heinrich, a close friend of Klimt, and then to Heinrich’s wife Mabel in 1940 after his death. The next owner was Rudolf Leopold, the Viennese art collector and museum director, who also bought many Schiele works from Mabel Böhler in 1952. The family of the current owner acquired Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) through a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 1994. Sotheby’s did not to reveal the family’s identity or the reason for its current sale.

Most recently, Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) was part of the 2021–22 exhibition “Gustav Klimt’s Last Works” at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, marking the first time it had been on public display since its acquisition from the Sotheby’s auction in 1994.

Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Europe chairman, told the Art Newspaper she expected to see strong Asian interest in this portrait, due to Klimt’s portrayal of artist’s portrayal of lotus blossoms, phoenixes, and dragons in the background, and due to the motifs on the unnamed woman’s robe.

“Klimt is in that rare category of artists—including Modigliani, Picasso and Giacometti—whose work has achieved over $100 million at auction,” Newman said.


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