ROME (Reuters) – Authorities in the Italian city of Piacenza confirmed on Friday that a painting found hidden on a wall in the local art gallery was by Austrian master Gustav Klimt, putting an end to doubts about its authenticity.
The workers discovered the painting in December in a plastic bag hidden inside the wall of the Ricci Oddi Gallery, from which it was stolen in 1997. They found a small door that revealed the masterpiece, while cleaning the ivy on the outside wall.
The mayor of Piacenza, Patrizia Barbieri, and the head of culture, Jonathan Papamarenghi, praised the "historic" news and promised to make the portrait of a young woman in 1917 a centerpiece of the city's heritage.
"After the joy of discovery … the conflicting rumors of today have fueled even more suspense about a story that has mysterious aspects," the two local officials wrote in a statement.
When the painting disappeared 23 years ago, police said they believed thieves were using a fishing line to attach it to the wall and drag it through an open skylight to the gallery's ceiling, where the frame was discarded.
A skillful forgery of the painting, wrapped and sent to a disgraced politician, was seized by the authorities a month later, adding to the mystery.
When workers found the real painting, Papamarenghi said he was impressed by its excellent condition after decades on a wall.
He said he was second on the list of the most valuable works of art missing in Italy, after a work by Caravaggio stolen from a church in Sicily in 1969.
The Klimt is considered particularly important because, just before its disappearance, an art student realized that he had been painted on another work that he believed was lost – a portrait of a young woman who had not been seen since 1912 – making him the only "double" "Klimt known to the art world.
Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Giles Elgood
Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. . (tagsToTranslate) USA (t) ITALY (t) ART (t) KLIMT (t) European Union (t) Art (t) Western Europe (t) Europe (t) Arts / Culture / Entertainment (t) Italy (t) Crime (t) Images (t) Video (t) Eurozone