The timing of the discovery could not be more appropriate as Austria is currently celebrating its most famous painter’s 150th birthday, which fell on Saturday.
The ceiling fresco ‘Trumpeting Putto’, which depicts a trumpet-blowing cherub-like child draped in a red scarf against a sky-blue background, is said to have once been part of the ceiling of Klimt’s Vienna studio, where he lived with his brother Ernst between 1883 and 1892 after he had completed his studies. But in the late 1980s, after a lift was installed in the building in Sandwirt Lane, it disappeared.
Art historians had speculated about its whereabouts ever since and it was believed to have been destroyed. However, art dealer Josef Renz received a call last week from a man claiming to have found the fresco in his garage. The man said he had only recently become aware of the artwork’s fame, but did not know how it had ended up there.
“This valuable and unique ceiling fresco is in very good condition,” said Renz, who has rescued several other Habsburg-era artefacts from obscure locations. Renz said he was convinced of the authenticity of the painting, which he had spent years searching for. He refused to say how much he had paid the owner for it, but told Austrian media he intends to have the fresco – the ceiling piece is 1.7 metres in diameter – restored and put up for auction in the autumn.
But Alfred Weidinger, a Klimt expert and deputy director of the Belvedere museum, which displays many Klimt works, has expressed his doubt that the painting is by Gustav Klimt, insisting there is more evidence to suggest it was painted by his much less celebrated brother Ernst.
“This work has been floating round since the 1960s, and repeatedly attempts have been made to have it recognised as one of Klimt’s, especially in this, the 150th anniversary of his birth”, he said. “But in research into the catalogue of paintings he produced, studies for this painting made by Ernst Klimt have been found,” he said.
Weidinger said not only was the work not signed by Gustav, it was “not a particularly good art work” and shared similarities with ceiling paintings by Ernst in Schloss Mondsee, close to Salzburg. He said at best the painting was by both brothers.
Austria is currently caught up in a whirl of activities to celebrate the Jugendstil master, famous for his erotic and decorative, often gilded, images of women, whose best-known painting is The Kiss. Everything from special art exhibitions to the opening of a museum dedicated to Klimt, and a Vienna musical on his life, are drawing in tourists from around the world.
Category: Art Reviews