Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan), 1917-18
Oil on canvas
100.2 x 100.2 cm
Price realised: 85,305,800 GBP
Courtesy of Sotheby’s London
Last week a new record was set for the most expensive work of art ever auctioned in Europe. Gustav Klimt’s final portrait Dame mit Fächer (Lady With a Fan) was sold for a premium-inclusive £85.3 million ($108.4 million).
This title was previously by Alberto Giacometti‘s sculpture Walking Man sold in 2010 at Sotheby’s London as well, for £65 million ($104.3 million). The top price for the continent’s most expensive painting, meanwhile, had stood for 15 years, with the £40.9 million ($80.4 million) sale of Le basin aux nymphéas by Claude Monet at Christie’s London. That figure was nearly matched last March with L’empire des lumières by René Magritte, which fetched £59.4 million ($79.8 million) at Sotheby’s London.
Dame mit Fächer on an easel in Klimt’s Studio, 1918 (courtesy Sotheby’s)
Dame mit Fächer was still standing on an easel in Klimt’s studio at the time of the artist’s untimely death in 1918, aged 55, during his artistic prime. After helping to establish the Viennese Secession, an avant-garde art movement, Klimt began taking greater creative risks in the early 1900s. Dame mit Fächer is the ultimate example of that approach. Helena Newman, the chair of Sotheby’s Europe and worldwide head of impressionist and modern art described the work as “a technical tour de force, full of boundary-pushing experimentation, as well as a heartfelt ode to absolute beauty.”
In the work, the artist is mixing Chinese motifs of the phoenix and lotus blossoms with the flattened background and juxtaposition of patterns characteristic of Japanese woodblock prints. Although nothing remains of Klimt’s personal collection of Chinese and Japanese art objects, evidence of its existence abounds.
Nineteenth Century Chinese textile, MAK – Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna (courtesy Sotheby’s)
The bidding activity on the day reflected the intense demand from Asia as it ultimately came down to a ten-minute bidding war between Sotheby’s deputy chairman of Asia Jen Hua, who was bidding for a client she was on the phone with, and Patti Wong, longtime former Sotheby’s chairman and head of Asia, who left at the end of 2022 to run her own advisory business.
Following the sale, Wong said her firm “is honoured to secure this stunning masterpiece by Klimt for our client in Hong Kong. This rare beauty, with distinguished provenance, now going into a prestigious collection, was painted at the artist’s prime and shows his forward thinking and experimental technique.”
We at Theodore & C admire the bold and striking artwork and would love to help you find art pieces that will inspire the same awe and visual engagement.