Adele Bloch-Bauer

The Girl Behind the Gold

Snooki wore a gold mini-dress to her 24th Birthday bash in Las Vegas. Kim Kardashian launched her own perfume brand, ‘Gold’.

But Snooki-Kardashian bling doesn’t begin to compare to Adele Bloch-Bauer, ‘The Lady in Gold”, immortalized in Gustav Klimt’s famous gold-leaf artwork.

The 1907 painting, originally titled, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, was commissioned by Adele’s husband, a Czech sugar magnate. The work was a labor of love and lust for Mr Klimt, a notorious seducer of his models, which might partly explain why he took a leisurely three years to finish this masterpiece.

So who is the lady behind the glitter? Adele Bloch-Bauer was a frequent scenester at the Salons of Vienna, circa 1900s. (The Viennese Salons were the equivalent of TED Talks, “Ideas Worth Spreading”, but with Absinthe and cigars). On any given night, there’d be an elite gathering of artists, intellectuals, writers and anyone who wanted to be inspired by ideas and intelligent conversation. It was here that the waif-like beauty became entwined with the charismatic, sexually charged and irreverent Gustav Klimt. It was during this cultural golden age that Klimt, having pulled himself up from poverty and into fame as a workaholic artist and serial philanderer, created his best-known works. Unfortunately, the gritty details of the affair between Klimt and Bloch-Bauer are left to our imaginations as nothing of their liaison has been recorded. But given Bloch-Bauer’s love of conversation and Klimt’s lusty, animal persona, we could speculate that there was at least some high-brow dirty talk going on.
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But this is just the beginning of the story. During WWII, Bloch-Bauer’s portrait was seized by the Nazis and renamed ‘The Dame in Gold’ to erase her Jewish identity. Sixty years after the theft, the painting became the subject of lengthy litigation between Bloch-Bauer’s surviving family members and the Austrian government, a case that somehow ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The painting was eventually returned to the heirs and sold at auction for a record sum of $135 million in 2006. The painting was purchased by Ronald Lauder, son of beauty industry legend, Estee Lauder. The Lady in Gold now stands as majestic and timeless as ever in the Neue Galerie, NYC.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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