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A long-lost portrait by Gustav Klimt, depicting a young woman, fetched a staggering 30 million euros (£25.7 million) at an auction held in Vienna on Wednesday.

The Austrian modernist artist commenced work on the Portrait of Fraulein Lieser in 1917, just a year before his passing, making it one of his final creations.

Bidding for the masterpiece began at 28 million euros (£24 million), ultimately selling at the lower end of the anticipated range of 30-50 million euros. The winning bid came from an anonymous bidder based in Hong Kong.

According to the Im Kinsky auction house, this painting holds exceptional rarity, artistic significance, and value, marking a significant event in the central European art market.

The auction was conducted on behalf of the current owners, Austrian private citizens who opted to remain anonymous, as well as the legal heirs of Adolf and Henriette Lieser, who are believed to have commissioned the artwork. However, the exact identity of the model from the Lieser family remains unclear.

Klimt left the painting unfinished in his studio upon his death from a stroke in early 1918, and it was subsequently passed on to the family who had originally commissioned it.

The Lieser family, of Jewish descent, fled Austria in the 1930s, losing many of their possessions in the process. The whereabouts of the painting during the tumultuous period between 1925 and the 1960s, including the Nazi regime's annexation of Austria in 1938, remain uncertain.

While there is no conclusive evidence that the painting was confiscated during the Nazi era, neither is there proof to the contrary. The artwork eventually came into the possession of the current owners through a series of inheritances.

Given the historical ambiguity surrounding the painting's ownership, the current owners and the Liesers' heirs reached an agreement to proceed with the sale under the principles outlined in the Washington Principles. These principles, established in 1998, aim to address issues related to the restitution of Nazi-confiscated art. Photo by Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, Wikimedia commons.