Gustav Klimt's 'Lady With A Fan' To Sell For $80 Million

Klimt’s final painting will have a starting price of $80 million when it goes up for sale in late June—breaking the record for highest estimate ever given to a European auction piece. 

The late Austrian painter Gustav Klimt is a legendary and widely-loved figure in the world of art. His vibrant and ornate style—emblematic of the 19th-century symbolist art movement—is instantly recognizable, and most apparent in his famous works “The Kiss,” “Judith and the Head of Holofernes,” and “Death & Life.”

Klimt’s pieces have only skyrocketed in value over the years, easily fetching prices in the nine-digit figures. This June 27, Sotheby’s will be selling a special painting from his oeuvre in their modern and contemporary art summer auction.

The work, entitled “Dame mit Fächer” but better known by its English translation “Lady with a Fan,” is expected to sell for an impressive $80 million dollars. This means the painting could break records for the highest estimate ever given to a European auction piece.

Klimt's "Lady with a Fan"
Klimt’s “Lady with a Fan”/Photo from Sotheby’s official website

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Sotheby’s last sold “Lady with a Fan” for $11.6 million during their 1994 New York auction, so the current sale value is certainly a big price jump. That said, the piece entitled “Birch Forest” is still the record holder for most expensive Klimt painting ever sold. The esteemed art collector Paul Allen sold the oil on canvas painting for a jaw-dropping $106.6 million in Christie’s monumental November 2022 auction. 

"Birch Forest" continues to be the most expensive Klimt painting ever sold at a public auction, fetching $106.6 million
“Birch Forest” continues to be the most expensive Klimt painting ever sold at a public auction, fetching $106.6 million/Photo from Christie’s official website

The Last Stunning Masterpiece

Sotheby’s described the valuable painting as Klimt’s “last masterpiece.” It features a beautiful lady dressed in a decorated robe with her bare shoulder exposed. As the title implies, the woman holds an ornate fan as she stares into the distance with a confident smile. 

The piece contains elements apparent in many of Klimt’s works, namely a colorful, intricate, and symbolic backdrop. Images of phoenixes and lotus flowers are abundant in the work, visual motifs that are strongly Asian in nature. Klimt held a deep fascination for Japanese and Chinese culture, which could explain this creative decision.

A photograph of Gustav Klimt (1914)/Photo by Josef Anton Trčka via Wikimedia Commons

By the time he created “Lady with a Fan,” the artist was already a renowned and sought-after portraitist who often took commissions from patrons. Experts suspect that Klimt likely made the portrait for personal reasons, since they can’t trace the impetus of its creation.

People have yet to identify the female subject of the painting. However, representatives from Sotheby’s say that she may have been a friend of Klimt’s who was hired to model for the piece.

A Trailblazing Painting Unlike Any Other

Measuring 71 x 71 inches, the portrait exhibits Klimt’s preference for square canvases. Thomas Boyd Bowman, the head of Sotheby’s upcoming summer sale, told Barron’s that this was due to the perceived intimacy offered by the format. 

“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,” said Bowman in a press release.

"The Kiss" is one of Klimt's most famous works, and a body of work that encapsulates his "Golden Phase" as an artist
“The Kiss” is one of Klimt’s most famous works, and a body of work that encapsulates his “Golden Phase” as an artist/Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Helena Newman, the head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art division, explained that Klimt created the piece in his “artistic prime.” Though he produced many of his most famous works during his “Golden Phase” (a period when he frequently used gold foil in his pieces), Klimt made “Lady with a Fan” at a time when he was “producing some of his most accomplished and experimental works,” explained Newman. 

“This … is something completely different—a technical tour de force, full of boundary-pushing experimentation, as well as a heartfelt ode to absolute beauty,” she added.

Banner photo from Sotheby’s official website.

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