Gustav Klimt's extraordinary Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I holds a special place in art history with its story surrounding its beautiful young subject, Nazi confiscation, modern-day return to the heirs and record-breaking sale in 2015. The famous work, which took three years to finish, was painted at the request of Ferdinand Bauer, a wealthy Viennese businessman, who commissioned two portraits of his young wife, Adele. Adèle was considered a rebellious spirit and wanted to study at the university, but she yielded to the norms and conventions of society by marrying Ferdinand.

The Bloch-Bauer couple unfortunately could not have children, and although spoiled by her husband, Adele was frustrated with her life. She became a patron of the arts and met the most influential personalities of Viennese high society, such as Schnitzler and Freud. Her sophisticated appearance, slim physique, and free spirit made her a modern woman who integrated effortlessly into the aristocratic and artistic world of Vienna. She was enthusiastic about avant-garde music, architecture, philosophy and literature, and held weekly salons where artists, writers, composers and actors convened.

Gustav Klimt. Photo: Sotheby's Gustav Klimt. Photo: Sotheby's

Adele remains to this day the only woman Gustav Klimt has painted twice, so she is considered by art historians as his muse, and many theories have emerged about their relationship. Klimt left very little clue to any dalliance in his letters or diary, and it is difficult to say with certainty that the muse and the painter were intimately connected.

It is said, however, that Gustav Klimt had a confusing, almost magnetic charm, and that if he really loved a woman, he respected her greatly. However, among his innumerable conquests (he had 16 illegitimate children), none would have been as fascinating as the young Adèle Bloch-Bauer, had she been his lover.

Toi et Moi diamond ring, from the descendants of the Bloch-Bauer family. Photo: Sotheby's Toi et Moi diamond ring, from the descendants of the Bloch-Bauer family. Photo: Sotheby's

On December 11, Sotheby's London presented the Toi et moi ring, an elegantly curved design composed of a brown diamond and a colorless diamond weighing respectively 2.10 carats and 1.85 carats. The ring had been purchased by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, and the auction house believes that it once adorned the finger of the beautiful Adele.

When Adele died in 1925 at the age of 43, Ferdinand offered the jewel to his grand-niece Helen Marie Stutzova, who then passed it on to her daughter Charlotte Mayer. Charlotte managed to escape the Nazis and took refuge in London in 1939, thus keeping the ring among the descendants of the Bloch-Bauers until the Fine Jewels sale. It may be that the mere name of the muse, and presumed lover of the greatest Austrian painter, was enough to entice collectors, since the exceptional jewel was auctioned at £43,750 ($34,600), six times over its estimate of only £5,000-7,000.($3,900-5,500).

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