Adele II Goes on the Block

On The Town | Vienna Review | November 2006

The second of the Adele Bloch-Bauer portraits by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt and three landscapes go up for auction at Christies in New York on Nov. 8.  The four paintings, and another portrait purchased in June by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, were part of a heated restitution battle between the Austrian government and the family of the Jewish sugar industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who had commissioned the two portraits of his wife, and from whom they had been stolen by the Nazis.  The four paintings — painted between 1903 and 1916 — are estimated to be worth about $100 million.

This second portrait, 190 x 120 cm, will be auctioned at a starting price alone of $40 million, according to a Christies advertisement. Bidding is expected to be vigorous. The Lauder portrait brought $135 million, according to The New York Times, the highest price known ever to have been paid for a painting, eclipsing the $104.1 million paid for Picasso’s 1905 "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)’’ in an auction at Sotheby’s in 2004.  Bloch-Bauer’s niece and heir to the paintings, Maria Altmann, was quoted in the Times as saying that "None of us [in the family] are in a position to keep them.’’

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