Painting hidden in museum's walls verified as stolen Klimt

This image taken from a video distributed Wednesday Dec. 11 2019 by Italian police shows two police officers standing next to painting which was found inside a ’s walls in Piacenza northern Italy. A gardener at the Ricci Oddi modern art galle

The mystery surrounding a $66 million painting deepened last month after it resurfaced in the walls of an Italian gallery almost 23 years after it was reported stolen.

The authentication of the painting announced Friday solved one of the art world's enduring mysteries - where did the missing work end up? - but left several questions unanswered, including whether "Portrait of a Lady" ever left the grounds of the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery.

It was thought to have disappeared for good until gardeners clearing away ivy found it concealed in an external wall at the same gallery.

"It's with no small emotion that I can tell you the work is authentic", Piacenza Prosecutor Ornella Chicca told reporters Friday.

Museum officials had initially said they could not immediately determine whether the painting was indeed the stolen Klimt until scientific tests were undertaken.

This image taken from a video distributed Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 by Italian police shows two forensic police officers approaching a metal panel in which a painting was found, in Piacenza, northern Italy.

It was stolen on 22 February 1997 as the gallery was preparing a special exhibition.

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Portrait of a Lady was painted in 1916-17 by Viennese artist Gustav Klimt towards the end of his life.

When the painting vanished 23 years ago police said they believed thieves had used a fishing line to hook it off the wall and haul it up through an open skylight to the roof where the frame was discarded.

The museum's president Massimo Ferrari had told AFP, after the lost painting was first discovered in the wall in December, that there were "positive signs" that this was the genuine Klimt.

The Ricci Oddi Gallery of Modern Art takes its name from a rich art collector originally from Piacenza, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) from Milan, who entrusted a collection of 450 mostly 19th-century paintings to the municipality in 1931.

Some of Klimt's works have experienced stunning turns of fortune. Klimt had painted over the portrait when the girl died suddenly, to forget the pain of her death.

Another celebrity Klimt piece was a second portrait of the woman, "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II".

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