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Gustav Klimt’s “Lady With a Fan” and Its Record-Breaking Sale

Art is not only a beautiful thing to behold but often proves to be a wise investment. Gustav Klimt’s “Lady with a Fan” recently made headlines after selling for a record-breaking £85.3m ($107.5 million) at an auction in Europe. It is fascinating to uncover the story behind this masterpiece and understand the significance of this sale.

Today, we will delve deeper into the painting’s history, cultural influences, and the events that led to its record-breaking sale at auction.

SOTHEBY’S/ ARTNEWS | “Dame mit Fächer” is one of the few Klimt portraits still in private hands

The History of “Lady With a Fan”

For over a century, Gustav Klimt’s “Lady with a Fan” has been a subject of admiration and awe. Klimt painted the portrait in 1917-18, during the final years of his life. It is thought that the painting was a commission from his affluent patron, Etta Wedell, who wanted a portrait of her daughter.

As it turned out, Klimt never delivered the painting, which remained in his studio until he died in 1918. After that, it was acquired by a close friend of the artist, Viktor Zuckerkandl. The painting has remained within the Zuckerkandl family for over a century, with only a handful of public appearances.

Analyzing the Painting

One of the reasons “Lady with a Fan” is considered a masterpiece is its unique blend of cultural influences. In the painting, Klimt features Chinese phoenixes, symbolizing rebirth and immortality, and lotus blossoms, representing purity and enlightenment. The Japanese woodblock prints in the background add texture and depth to the piece.

Imagno/ Getty | Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter who was a key figure in the Vienna Secession movement.

Art connoisseurs point out how Klimt’s use of these cultural symbols and motifs came at a time when other artists were turning towards less diverse sources of inspiration. Klimt’s openness to drawing from cultural influences beyond Europe and his artistic expression broke new ground.

The Auction and Record-Breaking Sale

Leading up to the highly publicized sale, many art collectors and dealers worldwide expressed interest in acquiring “Lady with a Fan.” Ultimately, the winning bidder was Patti Wong from Sotheby’s Asia, upholding their expertise and reputation.

There was a lot of anticipation around the auction, and it exceeded everyone’s expectations when bidding surpassed fifty million pounds. The sale broke records, making it the most expensive Klimt ever sold and the second-highest price for a work of art sold in Europe.

MATHILDE BELLENGER/ Getty Images | The painting celebrates beauty in both the human form and the world that surrounds it


The sale of “Lady with a Fan” speaks to the broader changes and shifts within the art world. As we look to the future, we can expect to see more collectors take an interest in art from cultures beyond their own, breaking down barriers and stereotypes.

At the same time, it underscores the importance of preserving cultural heritage in art. Paintings like “Lady with a Fan” offer a glimpse into the artist’s unique perspective and the historical context in which they operated. By protecting and celebrating such works, the art world can move together toward greater promise, expression, and investment.

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