Questionable Klimt Back on the Market

Klimt Study of an Old Man With Ivy Wreath (1886-1887) Photo: im Kinsky

A year after a oil study for a portrait signed “Klimt” failed to meet its reserve of €70,000 at Vienna’s Im Kinsky auction house, the work is back up for auction with a different date next to its title and an estimate of €35,000-70,000, half of what it was a year before.

The problem? According to der Standard, the painting is a Klimt, but it might not be the right one. Gustav Klimt is a household name, known most prominently for his 1908-1909 work The Kiss. But his younger brother, Ernst, while also a painter, didn’t ever quite make it into the big leagues.

Experts are split on which brother painted the work. Alfred Weidinger says it’s Ernst. Herbert Giese votes, in Im Kinsky’s catalogue nonetheless, that Gustav painted the picture. Either way, the painting is now said to be from 1886-1887, several years earlier than it was previously.

Sibling rivalry isn’t the only issue facing the work, however. The paper goes on to suggest there might be Nazi-related provenance issues with the study. The auction catalogue only lists the painting having been consigned from a private Austrian collection. However, a previous report by the paper ties the work to active Nazi party member, Josef Galvagni, who was partially in charge of expelling Jews from Vienna during the Third Reich. They concede that it’s very difficult to say whether the Klimt was obtained legally by Galvagni or was part of a forced sale to provide for his emigration assistance.

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