Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

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2015-06-26 10:44:46

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt completed in 1907. Its subject, Adele Bloch-Bauer, is the only woman Klimt painted more than once.

The work is currently the world’s third-most expensive painting. According to press reports it was sold for US$135 million to Ronald Lauder for his Neue Galerie in New York City in June 2006, making it the most expensive painting in the world at the time.

The piece has been on display at the gallery since July 2006.

Rumours persist that the painting hints at a more-than platonic relationship between Klimt and the painting’s subject; Adele Bloch-Bauer was the wife of industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer who commissioned the work.

Style of the painting

The painting took Klimt three years to complete, and the final work shows elaborated and complex ornamentation as seen in the Jugendstil style. It measures 138 x 138 cm, and is made of oil and gold on canvas.

The piece is also influenced by Klimt’s membership of the Vienna Secession, a group of Austrian artists who broke away from traditional ways of painting.

It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy industrialist who had made his fortune in the sugar industry. Bloch-Bauer favoured and supported Klimt.

Adele Bloch-Bauer (1881-1925)

Born in 1881, Adele Bloch-Bauer was the youngest daughter of a wealthy Jewish banking family. She entered into an arranged marriage with business tycoon Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer aged 18 to escape her parent’s household.

Whether or not Adele and Gustav had an affair remains a mystery. But Adele adored the artist and his work, collecting five of his works which reportedly adorned the walls of her chambers. It is rumoured that Adele confessed her affair with Klimt to her physician and personal maid before her death from meningitis in Vienna in 1925, aged 43.

The painting after Adele Block-Bauer’s death

Adele Block-Bauer’s family was forced to flee Austria when the Nazis took power and confiscated the painting. The portrait and four other looted Klimt pictures had been displayed in a gallery in Vienna for more than 60 years until a 1998 law in Austria required museums to return art seized by the Nazis.

They were returned to Maria Altmann, Adele’s niece, in 2010 after a protracted legal battle.

Notable sales

Ronald S Lauder bought the painting for a reported $135 million in 2006 - a record at the time for a work of art.

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