A painting accidentally found five weeks ago in Piacenza, in the gardens of the museum in northern Italy where it had been stolen twenty-three years earlier, is indeed an original of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt.
"It is with great emotion that I can tell you that the painting found is authentic," Ornella Chicca, magistrate in charge of the investigation into this disappearance, announced to the press on Friday.
In February 1997, while the Ricci Oddi Gallery, a museum in Piacenza in the north-east of the peninsula, was closed for work, the painting entitled "Portrait of a Lady" was stolen without leaving traces.
These are gardeners who, on December 10, when they were cleaning the external wall of the museum, found it by chance. By tearing off ivy, they dropped a small ventilation hatch and discovered a black garbage bag containing the painting on its frame but without a frame.
The investigation that will continue will have to determine "how long the painting has been there," said Ornella Chicca. "For the moment, we cannot know if he has been there all this time," said the magistrate.
Since its fortuitous discovery, the painting has been the subject of a meticulous technical-scientific investigation by three specialists appointed by the justice system: Guido Cauzzi, Anna Selleri and Claudia Collina.
Expert Guido Cauzzi notably took photographs of fluorescence and grazing light on the work, comparing them to examinations carried out in 1996.
"The correspondence between the images has made it possible to verify that it is indeed the original painting," he assured the press.
"The state of conservation is relatively good. It has undergone a few tests but requires only routine maintenance, nothing particularly complicated," he said.
Anna Selleri examined the canvas, the frame, the stamps on the back, the seals and labels and, according to her, all appear to be authentic.
- One portrait under another -
The "Portrait of a Lady", painting 55x65 cm, made in 1916/1917 by Gustav Klimt, master of symbolism, was widely publicized in 1996 when a student in art history, Claudia Maga, had helped to discover that under a first portrait hid another.
The director of the museum, Massimo Ferrari, had announced to AFP, from the first days after the discovery in December, that there were "positive signals" concerning the authenticity of the work.
He then explained that for the first authentication, the experts were interested in the back of the painting, which contains the wax seals and plaster and the museum stamp, a part "much more difficult to reconstruct (than the before), even for counterfeiters, "he said.
Massimo Ferrari had estimated "Portrait of a Lady" at "60 or perhaps 100 million euros" but had put its value into perspective "considering its characteristics" because it is a portrait in an unusually expressionist style, and not a composite work typical of the Austrian painter.
Ricci Oddi was a wealthy collector from Piacenza who had collected up to 450 paintings - including Klimt's canvas - most of them dating from the 19th century, which he then donated in 1931 to the municipality of this town located 70 km from Milan.
The "Portrait of a Lady" had been exhibited in the Gallery bearing her name until its flight in 1997.
© 2020 AFP