It was one of the most sought after stolen paintings in the world. But after a daring robbery on the eve of an exhibition, the 'Portrait of a Lady' by Gustav Klimt may have been hidden for 22 years and 9 months in a cavity on an outer wall of the museum, the Ricci Oddi Gallery in Piacenza, from where it was stolen. Without anyone noticing it and without those who had stolen it going to get it. On the contrary, the canvas seriously risked ending up in the trash when an external space cleaner found it, enclosed in a black sack, in a cavity protected by a sheet metal door that in the meantime had been hidden by ivy . In the coming days more in-depth analysis will say a definitive word about its authenticity, but a first expertise has confirmed that it is precisely that painting: in the back there are in fact also the stamps of the exhibitions in which the work had been exhibited in the past. The theft of the 'Lady' was, in February 1997, a film story that ended up in newspapers around the world: we noticed the theft on February 22nd, but it probably happened a few days before, in the confusion of moving several paintings for a exhibition at the Gothic Palace dedicated to Klimt. A delay that caused serious damage to the investigation. The most varied and imaginative theses were advanced, especially after the dismantled frame was found in the closet of a skylight: there were those who thought of acrobatic thieves, those who supposed that the painting had quietly come out of the front door, taking advantage of the hustle and bustle of those days. From the room in which he was exposed (it was obviously the most important piece of the art gallery) he had only done a few tens of meters, going to end up in the cavity just outside the museum door. Probably it had to be, in the intention of the one who stole it, a temporary hiding place: then, however, perhaps also for the media attention, the surveillance of the police and the risk of receiving a work that became so famous, the thieves may never have returned to take it back. Over the years there have been rumors and legends about this picture that have fueled the myth: from the possibility that it was used for satanic rituals or that it ended up in an elusive 'treasure of Craxi' hidden in Tunisia. Initially the then custodians of the Gallery were investigated, but their position was soon filed away by the investigating judge due to lack of evidence. In 2016 the investigation was reopened after the discovery of a trace of DNA on the frame, but there were no particular developments. Now the twist that could confirm that the painting, one of the most sought after in the world, has never moved from Ricci Oddi. But to say it with certainty other investigators' investigations will be needed. Who will also try to shed light on the many dark sides of an apparently absurd story.
Rediscovered painting in Piacenza, Klimt hypothesis stolen
'Portrait of a lady' appears during cleaning work (ANSA)