Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II

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2015-06-26 10:44:47

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II is a 1912 painting by the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. It was his second work to feature Adele Bloch-Bauer as its subject, after 1907’s more famous Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, the only female subject painted more than once by Klimt.

The oil on canvas measures 190 cm × 120 cm (75 in × 47 inches). It was sold for $88 million in 2006 – and today stands as the world’s 13th most valuable painting.

Back story

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

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.

Court battle

Both Adele Bloch-Bauer paintings were part of a lengthy court battle in the United States and Austria. The case resulted in five Gustav Klimt paintings being returned to Maria Altmann, the niece of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, in January 2006.

The paintings had fallen out of the possession of the Bloch-Bauers after they were forced to flee Austria when the Nazis took power and confiscated the works.

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, resulting in the protracted court battle.

Notable sales

In November 2006, Christie's auction house sold Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II at auction for $88 million, the third-highest priced piece of art at auction at the time.Today, the piece is the thirteenth most valuable painting in the world.

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