Gustav Klimt’s Grand Finale: The Exquisite “Dame mit Fächer”

As an art enthusiast, your heart might skip a beat when you hear the name Gustav Klimt, an Austrian painter whose ingenuity and artistic mastery have transcended time and continue to impress and influence generations of artists and art lovers worldwide. The momentous news is here, and it’s all about his last portrait, the “Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan),” which has become the star attraction in the summer auction season at Sotheby’s London, 2023.

A Culmination of Klimt’s Artistic Evolution

Before delving into the specifics of the auction, let’s explore the magic within this final masterpiece. “Dame mit Fächer” is not merely an art piece; it’s an embodiment of Klimt’s technical prowess and creative vigor at the pinnacle of his career. Painted in the last phase of his life, this masterpiece showcases the fusion of Klimt’s signature style with novel experimentation. It’s his grand finale, a beautiful, intimate, and heartfelt ode to beauty.

While many of his best-known works were commissioned, this piece sets itself apart. In its creation, Klimt was not bound by the expectations of a patron but was rather guided by the strokes of his passion and love for beauty, thereby bringing forth an authentic, boundary-pushing work.

Dame mit Fächer on an easel in Klimt’s studio, 1918

The Allure of “Dame mit Fächer”

“Dame mit Fächer” depicts an unnamed woman whose charm has been intricately captured by Klimt. The portrait, commenced in 1917, displays his innovative approach to painting and bears the marks of his fascination with Asian art and culture. The motif of the phoenix symbolizes immortality, rebirth, good fortune, and fidelity, and the lotus blossoms signify love, happy marriage, and purity.

Draped in her kimono, the subject is portrayed with a soft touch, her skin texture mirroring the pale-yellow background, making her almost dissolve into it. The square format of the portrait, deviating from the traditional vertical one, gives the artwork a distinctively modern edge. As Thomas Boyd Bowman, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sales, Sotheby’s London, notes, “The beauty and sensuality of the portrait lies in the detail: the flecks of blue and pink which enliven the sitter’s skin, the feathery lines of her eyelashes and the pursed lips that give her face character.”

The Journey of the Masterpiece

The masterpiece’s journey is as captivating as the artwork itself. After Klimt’s death, the painting was acquired by Viennese industrialist Erwin Böhler, a great patron of the arts. Over the years, the painting was passed down through the Böhler family, and it eventually landed in the hands of the famous collector Rudolf Leopold in 1967. In 1994, it was last offered for sale and was acquired by the family of the present owner.

A Historic Auction at Sotheby’s

The auction of “Dame mit Fächer” at Sotheby’s London, expected to realize in the region of £65 million ($80 million), is more than a sale; it’s a historic moment. The artwork is not only one of the most valuable ever to be offered in Europe, but it also joins the ranks of the most valuable portraits of any era to come to auction.

Klimt’s artistry has been previously recognized in the auction world. His “Birch Forest” sold for a staggering $104.6m as part of the Paul G. Allen Collection, and his “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II,” which is from 1912, fetched a commendable $87.9m in 2006. “Dame mit Fächer” follows in these significant footsteps, continuing Klimt’s legacy of garnering appreciation and colossal sums in the auction market.

The Auction Season at Sotheby’s London

“Dame mit Fächer” is set to be the star attraction at Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction on 27 June 2023, but it is far from the only prestigious piece on offer. The auction also promises a rich array of portraits by renowned artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Edvard Munch, Leonor Fini, Elizabeth Peyton, and Kerry James Marshall, all presented in a special sequence dubbed ‘Face To Face.’

The highlight of the auction season is timed with the much-anticipated reopening of the National Portrait Gallery in London, ensuring an enthralling experience for all art enthusiasts. In a testament to Sotheby’s commitment to bring extraordinary art to the public, a special exhibition featuring masterpieces from Chatsworth House, one of Britain’s most stately homes, will be on display from 30 May to 4 July.

This historic auction of “Dame mit Fächer,” therefore, signifies much more than an art sale. It represents a celebration of Klimt’s enduring legacy, a tribute to the timeless allure of portraiture, and a landmark moment in the annals of European art auctions. The very fact that such a masterpiece is made available for the public to view and for collectors to bid on only adds to the excitement.

In the words of Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Chairman, Europe, and Worldwide Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, “Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) is the last portrait Gustav Klimt created before his untimely death, when still in his artistic prime and producing some of his most accomplished and experimental works. This, though, is something completely different – a technical tour de force, full of boundary-pushing experimentation, as well as a heartfelt ode to absolute beauty.”

When we talk about auctions and art sales, we often talk about the price tags, but with Klimt’s “Dame mit Fächer,” we are reminded that the true value of art lies not in its market price but in its inherent beauty and the passion with which it was created. Klimt’s final masterpiece is not just an artwork; it’s a treasure trove of creativity, passion, and a timeless ode to absolute beauty.


Comes to Auction at Sotheby’s in London this June

By Sotheby’s

Expected to Realise in the Region of £65 Million / $80 Million

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