A staggering $80 million is the estimate for the painting’s June 27 auction “Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan)” of Gustav Klimt.

The work, Klimt’s last portrait painted towards the end of his life in 1918, is hailed by Helena Newman, president of Sotheby’s Europe and head of the auction house’s Impressionist and Modern art sector, as “one of his most outstanding works , painted when he was still in the best years of his artistic creation”.

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The identity of Klimt’s model is unknown. He began portraiture when he was already considered one of the most sought-after and famous portraitists in Europe. However, as the house pointed out, this is a rare work that he painted exclusively for his own reasons. Although the shape of portraits was traditionally vertical, in this painting Klimt returned to the square shape he had used in his landscapes in earlier years. The style and symbols also reflect the well-documented fascination that Japanese and Chinese culture held for the artist.

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Shortly after Gustav Klimt’s death, the painting “Dame mit Fächer” was acquired by the Viennese industrialist Erwin Böhler. Böhler, his brother Heinrich and his cousin Hans were close friends of both Klimt and Egon Schiele. They even vacationed with Klimt on Lake Attersee. The work eventually passed into Heinrich’s hands and after his death in 1940, to his wife Mabel. In 1967 it was in the collection of Rudolph Leopold, who is known to have bought a large group of Schiele works from Mabel Böhler in 1952 and may also have bought ‘Dame mit Fächer’.