Gardeners discover an original Gustav Klimt painting… by accident

Museums around the world should clear ivy more regularly

The Portrait of a Lady, painting by the Austrian master Gustav Klimt was stolen 23 years ago. As The Guardian notes, it became one of the most sought-after stolen artworks. Then, by sheer chance, gardeners at the Ricci Oddi modern art gallery in Piacenza, Italy discovered it!

While clearing ivy from one of the exterior walls at the Gallery, the same one where the painting was initially stolen, two gardeners hit the jackpot.

As The Guardian writes, this past December, “the pair discovered a metal panel, which, when opened, revealed a cavity with a painting in a bag. An initial inspection indicated that the painting was the 1917 work by the Austrian art nouveau painter before two experts were appointed by the prosecutor to confirm its authenticity.”

The plot thickened when a local Piacenza journalist “received a letter from two people claiming to have stolen the painting before hiding it in the wall.”

In the aftermath, the journalist wrote that, “the certification of its authenticity opens the door to the investigators’ work and it cannot be ruled out that the name of a suspect might soon appear.”

The Guardian writes that the theft of Portrait of a Lady was discovered on the morning of February 22, 1997 but police believed it had been removed three days earlier. Investigators at the time suspected an inside job. The investigation was reopened in 2016 following the discovery of DNA traces of a thief on the painting’s abandoned frame.

Police believe the thieves used a fishing line to hook the masterpiece off the wall and haul it up through an open skylight to the roof of the gallery, where the frame was discarded.

This painting is considered important “because shortly before its disappearance an art student realized it had been painted over another work previously believed lost – a portrait of a young lady that had not been seen since 1912 – making it the only ‘double’ Klimt known to the art world.”

After a thorough examination, experts have confirmed the authenticity of the Portrait of a Lady.

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