Gustav Klimt, Girl in the Foliage (Mädchen im Grünen, 1896)
Questions raised over the provenance of a small portrait by Gustav Klimt have now been resolved, according to a spokeswoman for the auction house. Girl in the Foliage (Mädchen im Grünen) is due to go under the hammer tomorrow, 1 March.
Sotheby's estimates that the Austrian painter’s 1896 work Girl in the Foliage (Mädchen im Grünen) will sell for between £1.2m and £1.8m. It is listed as “lost after 1972” in the catalogue raisonné written by Alfred Weidinger, the chief curator at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna.
Bibiana Preisinger is listed in the provenance notes in Sotheby’s sale catalogue as selling the work to the late New York-based dealer Serge Sabarsky in around 1972. But Preisinger had said that the painting was lost while her family home was being renovated after the death of her father in 1971.
Preisinger’s lawyer, Alfred Noll, contacted the auction house about the work earlier this month, “but no formal claim was asserted”, says a spokeswoman for Sotheby’s. The spokeswoman later contacted The Art Newspaper to say that “the issue has been resolved, and the painting is being sold without any claim or potential claim”.
Despite being listed in the catalogue raisonné as lost after 1972, “there is no suggestion that the painting has ever been reported as lost”, the Sotheby’s spokeswoman says. The work is not listed on the Art Loss Register database and has been exhibited at 11 major museum exhibitions around the world since 1972.
Michael Lesh, the lawyer who represents the Sabarsky estate and is selling the work, say that Preisinger originally said the painting went missing while she was going through a messy divorce in the 1970s.
Noll says Preisinger does not know where the painting went. “It could have been [removed by] a hired worker during the renovation of the house,” he says. He adds that Preisinger did not notice that the painting, which was in storage at the time, was missing for several months, but when she did “Preisinger just accounted for it as another loss”.
: This article (which was originally headlined: Questions raised over provenance of Klimt portrait being sold at Sotheby's) was updated after a spokeswoman for Sotheby's contacted The Art Newspaper after publication to say the issue had been resolved.