A Bloomberg headline informs me that a “Stolen $40 Million Klimt Helps Art Auction Rebound at Sotheby’s.” I had to read into the story a little further to find out that no, Sotheby’s did not steal a $40 million Gustav Klimt landscape. The sale on Nov. 1st was part of Sotheby’s $200 million auction of Impressionist and modern works in New York. 

Portrait of Emilie Floege, c.1902 by Gustav Klimt

 The top lot, Klimt’s “Litzlberg am Attersee,” was stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owner and recently returned to the woman’s grandson. The 1915 work depicts verdant hills above the lake of the title in western Austria.

Earlier this year, the Museum of Modern Art in Salzburg, Austria, returned the work to Georges Jorisch, grandson of Amalie Redlich, who owned it until she was deported to Lodz, a Polish town with a large Jewish ghetto, and never heard from again. The Gestapo sold off her collection.

Coincidentally, the theft of Lake Attersee, or Litzlberg am Attersee, was mentioned in a previous post of the same title.  As I said at the time,  the returned painting is one of 54 landscapes Klimt painted in the later years of his life. Lake Attersee is in Austria’s Salzkammergut resort region in the  Dachstein mountain range. (And no, I didn’t just happen to know that.)

Gustav Klimt spent many summers on the Attersee with his life companion, Emilie Louise Flöge, an Austrian designer  who owned a haute couture fashion salon, Schwestern Flöge, in Vienna.

Come to find out (from an Association of Jewish Refugees newsletter) she  is Austria’s most famous fashion designer – in her time she rivalled Chanel, Dior and Schiaparelli for haute couture designs which adorned Vienna’s urban elite for over 30 years.

 Dazzling Demons 

I don’t know if Emilie was the model for Hygeia. She sort of looks like her. (This is a messy segue, so bear with me) Anyway, Hygeia is the second of three paintings commissioned by the University of Vienna from 1900 – 1907.  It was destroyed by a fire at Immendorf Palace, 1945.

Hygeia (Detail from “Medicine) by Gustav Klimt 1907 Oil on canvas

Upon learning that, I happened upon a fascinating article in the Guardian entitled Dazzling Demons. It’s about Klimt and begins with the story of the torching of Immendorf Palace (and sort of relates to the Nazi theft of  Litzlberg am Attersee.)

It was all over. The Reich was finished, Hitler dead, his charred jaw bone all Russian pathologists could find of him in the smouldering ruins of Berlin. Hundreds of miles to the south, in Austria, an SS unit prepared to stage its own private apocalypse.

On May 7 1945, they arrived at Immendorf Castle in southern Austria. The German soldiers already billeted there were ordered to leave. That morning, German forces in Austria had signed their surrender, to take effect the next day; for these SS men, it was the last night of the war.

Schloss Immendorf was a beautiful setting for their final night of power and freedom. The castle’s massive fortifications were softened with sloping tiled roofs, so that it resembled a Loire chateau, set in spacious parkland, with ivy growing up the walls. A curving staircase led to a grand interior full of art treasures, stored here by the Reich to save them from air raids on Vienna.

Among this store were 13 paintings by Gustav Klimt. …

I think I’m going to leave Dazzling Demons at this point to continue with on another post. I also think today is Doug’s birthday, so Happy Birthday to Doug!