A Gustav Klimt landscape stolen more than 70 years ago by the Nazis and only returned this summer, has been sold for more than $40 million at an auction in New York.
The painting, “Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzlberg on the Attersee),” easily topped its pre-sale high estimate of $25 million at Sotheby’s impressionist and modern sale, selling for $40.4 million.
The work was stolen following the Anschluss, Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, from its Jewish owner, Amalie Redlich, according to Agence France-Presse.
The painting was returned in July to 83-year-old Georges Jorisch of Montreal, a retired camera-store owner and grandson of Redlich, according to the CBC.
“Litzlberg am Attersee” was painted in Vienna by Klimt in 1915, and depicts a pastoral scene of towering, wooded hills rising from water into a bright sky.
It was originally acquired from Klimt by a couple of Austro-Hungarian collectors who were great art patrons, Viktor Zuckerkandl and his wife Paula. After their deaths in 1927, the landscape passed into the collection of Viktor’s sister, Amalie Redlich, according to the New York Times.
Amalie and her daughter Mathilde were deported into what is now the Polish town of Lodz in 1941.
“There, they vanished, dying – perhaps murdered – in circumstances unknown,” according to the Times. “By 1944, the Klimt was hanging on the walls of the Residenz Galerie in Salzburg, also known as the Museum der Moderne Rupertinum.”
A portion of the proceeds from the sale is to be donated to the Salzburg museum for the construction of an extension to be named in Amalie Redlich’s memory.
The extreme rarity of large landscapes by Klimt in the market was undoubtedly a major factor in the huge price that “Litzlberg am See” commanded on Wednesday, according to the Times.
“Klimt’s landscapes are now considered to be one of the great icons of modern art,” Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s New York head of impressionist and modern art, told Reuters. “They are one of the most recognizable images and their appeal is truly a global one.”
(Above: “Litzlberg am Attersee,” by Gustav Klimt, 1915.)