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PORTRAIT OF ADELE BLOCH-BAUER
AN ART QUIZ
Purchased by the son of Estee Lauder for $135 million in 2006, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer has gained even greater fame currently as the star of Woman in Gold with award winning actress Helen Mirren. Yet, what more does this Viennese Mona Lisa created in 1907 have to reveal? Here’s a short quiz on this haunting masterpiece, its model and Gustav Klimt who turned her into a 21st century icon.
The answers (with illustrations) are at the end of the blog.
WHO WAS ADELE BLOCH-BAUER?
A. A celebrated European actress of the early 1900s B. The spouse of a powerful Austrian general. C. The wife of a rich Viennese tycoon. D. The married sister of a leading German opera singer.
WHAT WAS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN KLIMT AND HIS SUBJECT?
A. The painter and Bloch-Bauer had a long term romantic affair. B. She was mainly a patron and friend of Klimt. C. They were both lovers as well as creative collaborators, Adele having her own artistic aspirations. D. The exact nature of their relationship is not known.
HOW MANY TIMES DID KLIMT PAINT BLOCH-BAUER?
A. Only once. B. Twice. C. At least 3 times. D. At least 4 times.
WHAT FAMOUS WORK OF ART INSPIRED THE PORTRAIT?
Klimt was fascinated by the artistic heritage of the past. For example, the eyes staring out from Adele’s ornate gown probably derive from ancient Egyptian sculptures and statues. However, after a trip abroad in 1903, Klimt’s vision was transformed by:
A. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. B. The Byzantine mosaic of Empress Theodora. C. The stained glass windows of Chartres Cathedral. D. The Elgin marbles at the British Museum.
WHICH HIGH COURT HELPED DECIDE THE FATE OF THE PORTRAIT OF ADELE BLOCH-BAUER?
Maria Altmann, the 90 year old niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer, successfully fought to have her family’s collection of Klimts returned by the Austria government after they were stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The legal battle was long and involved this important judicial body:
A. International Court of Justice, The Hague. B. The U.S. Supreme Court. C. EU Supreme Court D. None of the preceding.
WHAT WAS THE TOTAL NUMBER OF PAINTINGS THAT MARIA ALTMANN WON?
A. Three. B. Eight. C. Four. D. Five.
AND THE ANSWERS ARE:
1C. Adele Bloch-Bauer was born into wealth and high society on August 9, 1881 in Vienna. Her father, Moritz Bauer, was head of one of the city’s most prestigious banks and the Orient Ralway; her husband Ferdinand Bloch also was involved in banking and had successfully invested in the sugar industry. Adele, always devoted to the arts, founded a salon that attracted not only Klimt, but the musical giants Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. She died at 43 in 1925 of meningitis.
2D. Although it has been speculated that Bloch-Bauer and Klimt were lovers, no proof presently exists such as correspondence, diary entries, or personal notes. Klimt, for instance, was very private about his personal life, not even leaving posterity a self portrait. The only images of him that remain are either photographs or this portrait done by colleague Egon Schiele in 1913.
3C. The earliest work with a figure identified as Adele Bloch Bauer is Judith and Holofernes created in 1901 now in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna (see: below). In 1907 and 1912, Klimt produced two formal portraits of Bloch-Bauer. In addition, she could have posed for Judith II of 1909, but still debated.
4B. Klimt traveled to Ravenna, Italy, where he saw the brilliant mosaic of the Byzantine Empress Theodore and Emperor Justinian (done before 547) for the first time in the Basilica of San Vitale. Its radiant beauty would influence several of his works, particularly The Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer.
5B. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Maria Altmann could sue the Austrian government.
6D. Five paintings were returned to Maria Altmann. Besides Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer were Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912), Houses at Unterach on the Attersee (c. 1916), Birchwood (1903), and The Apple Tree (1912). The four works below are in private collections.
The above images are used solely for educational purposes.