Art | December 12, 2019 7:00 am

Painting Found Hidden in Italian Gallery Believed to Be Stolen Klimt

Portrait of a Lady has been missing since 1997

Klimt's Portrait of a Lady
Klimt's Portrait of a Lady
DeAgostini/Getty Images

A painting believed to be a Gustav Klimt that disappeared nearly 23 years ago may have been discovered hidden in the wall of the gallery from which it vanished in 1997, the Guardian reported.

On Tuesday, a gardener at the Ricci Oddi modern art gallery in the northern Italian city of Piacenza discovered a painting hidden in a compartment behind a metal panel in one of the gallery’s exterior walls. The painting is believed to be Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady. The 1917 piece is one of the Austrian painter’s later works, and is considered one of the world’s most sought-after missing artworks.

The gallery has yet to make an official announcement and is reportedly waiting on confirmation of the painting’s authenticity. However, sources quoted in the local newspaper Piacenza Sera claimed an initial expert inspection suggests the painting is indeed the missing Klimt, with the director of the gallery, Massimo Ferrari, claiming that “the stamps and wax behind the picture are original.”

The painting’s theft was discovered on the morning of February 22, 1997. Police suspected an inside job. The investigation was reopened in 2016 following the discovery of DNA traces on the painting’s frame.

“It is very strange, because, immediately after the theft, every single inch of the gallery and garden was checked with a fine-tooth comb,” Jonathan Papamerenghi, a member of the Piacenza council with responsibility for culture, told La Repubblica. “The strangest thing is that the painting is in excellent condition. It does not seem like it has been locked under a trapdoor for 22 years.”

“If the findings confirm the authenticity of the painting, it would be a sensational discovery and we would be ready to exhibit it in the gallery as early as January,” he added.

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