Leopold Museum receives Klimt painting of great art historical value
Gift worth approximately half a million Euros
It is with great joy that the Leopold Museum has received an unexpected gift of a painting by Gustav Klimt from private donators. The extremely generous donation was made by a married couple of Viennese academics who successfully secured the ceiling painting “The Altar of Dionysus” by Gustav Klimt on behalf of the Leopold Museum in a recent auction on Classical Modernism at the Vienna Dorotheum for 475,064 Euros.
At this time of crisis and economic difficulty associated with the renewed lockdown, the Leopold Museum is all the more delighted about this pre-Christmas stroke of good fortune. “Being approached a day before an auction and asked to buy a work of such eminent art historical value for the museum in the name of the generous donators is something I have never experienced in my professional career,” said the Director of the Leopold Museum, Hans‑Peter Wipplinger.
The painting “The Altar of Dionysus” was created in 1886 as part of Gustav Klimt’s commission to design the ceiling paintings for the Vienna Burgtheater. The unusual format of the twelve-meter-long tympanum in the southern staircase inspired Klimt to create a composition showing a place of worship with a bust of the Greek god of antiquity Dionysus in its center. Along with two bacchantes flanking the altar, the left spandrel further features a naked satyr from Dionysus’ cortege.
The work was created at the watershed between Historicism and Jugendstil, and is thus a pivotal testament to the Historicist Klimt prior to the founding of the Secession and Klimt becoming its first president. Furthermore, it is the only draft of this ceiling painting in oil on canvas.
Against this background, the donators, who have been enthusiastic visitors to the Burgtheater since their youth, were especially intent on making this painting permanently accessible to the public. Showing the world’s most comprehensive permanent presentation of paintings by Gustav Klimt as part of the permanent exhibition “Vienna 1900”, this donation fits perfectly into the Leopold Museum’s collection of works from Klimt’s early oeuvre.
The art, theater and music-affine couple, who wish to remain anonymous, made their generous gesture from purely maecenatic motives and expect nothing in return for their gift.