1907. Oil on canvas. 138 x 138 cm. Private collection. Read Note.
Adele Bloch-Bauer (1882-1925), nee Bauer, came from a wealthy Austrian banking family. She married Ferdinand Bloch, a banker and industrialist, who was an important sponsor for Klimt and the Secession.
Adele had an affair with Klimt that started in 1899 and lasted for several years. As a result, she was the only society lady whom Klimt painted twice, and she also served as a model for his two depictions of Judith.
The Bloch-Bauers purchased 6 of the painter's works, including both portraits of Adele and four of Klimt's mood landscapes. In 1925, when Adele died, she requested that the paintings be given to the Austrian State Gallery. However, this was never done.
In 1938, when the Nazis invaded Austria, Adele's widowed husband Ferdinand had to flee abroad because of his Jewish roots, abandoning all his property, much of which was subsequently confiscated. Adele Bloch-Bauer's request that the paintings be donated to the Austrian State Gallery were seen as justification for this action.
However, in his 1945 will, Ferdinand bequeathed his property to his nephews and nieces, having no children of his own, among them Maria Altmann. For a long time, long after the war had ended, attempts to get the paintings returned were futile. It was only in 2006 that an Austrian court finally agreed that the Maria Altmann and the other heirs were the rightful owners of the painting, after a decision to the same effect carried out by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Only a short time after the decision, the first Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer was sold for a record-breaking sum.
See also: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II.