LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A painting by Gustav Klimt recently returned to the heirs of a Jewish woman killed in the Holocaust will go on sale at Christie’s in London in June and is expected to fetch 14-18 million pounds ($20-26 million).
“Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III),” painted in 1917-18, is the third and final work in a series of three portraits commissioned by the Munk family of their daughter Ria.
She committed suicide in 1911 after a love affair ended unhappily, and her mother Aranka, sister of Klimt’s chief patron Serena Lederer, employed the artist to paint a death-bed portrait of her.
According to the auctioneer, the first two efforts were rejected by the Munks. The second version was subsequently altered and is widely believed to be “Die Tanzerin” now in the Neue Galerie in New York.
Last year, the Austrian city of Linz recommended that the work up for sale be transferred from its Lentos gallery to Aranka Munk’s descendants.
It cited the findings of an independent expert, Sophie Lillie, who confirmed the painting had been seized from Munk by the Nazis after she was deported to a concentration camp where she died in 1941.
Vienna lawyer Alfred Noll applied in 2007 for the return of the painting, which made its way into Linz’s collection from an art dealer after World War Two.
The painting is the latest high-profile restitution case involving works by Klimt.
A court order forced Austria to give back five Klimt paintings in 2006 to Maria Altmann of California, a descendant of a family from whom the works were seized by the Nazis in 1938 and later given to the Belvedere art museum in Vienna.
Ronald S. Lauder paid a reported $135 million for one of that group -- a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. The deal was brokered by Christie‘s, which went on to auction the remaining four works for a combined $192.7 million.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Patricia Reaney