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Friday, June 30, 2023


Gustav Klimt’s ‘Lady with a Fan,’ a late-life masterpiece by the late Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, has sold to an anonymous Hong Kong collector for 85.3 million pounds ($108.4 million), at Sotheby’s in London, making it the most expensive artwork ever auctioned in Europe. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File) 


Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) was the final portrait painted by Gustav Klimt between 1917-18 and was found on an easel in his studio when he died. It was acquired shortly after Klimt’s death [Feb. 8, 1918] 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. 


Painter Gustav Klimt and cat

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. 

Emilie & Gustav
 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. 

 While the model holding the fan in the painting is not specifically identified, the facial image is similar to Emilie Floge, a Vienna fashion designer, who has been linked with Klimt as a friend, business colleague, muse, and lover. Her life story, albeit not as well known as Klimt’s, nevertheless, is remarkable in its own as a groundbreaking fashionista.

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