Life is directed by cinematic excitement, as proven yesterday at the Rijeka City Museum. During the installation of the paintings of Gustav and Ernst Klimt and their collaborator Franz Matsch for the upcoming exhibition, an extraordinary discovery took place – an unknown painting was found. And moreover, by all accounts, painted by the greatest of the three painters, Gustav Klimt. It all happened by chance, in the trial placement of the paintings in their exhibition places. Despite the careful handling of the painting of St. Cecily, the edge part of the old linen cloth that carries the paint unexpectedly separated in the hands of technician Mateo Matijević. It is about ten square centimeters. Yet, that was enough for another canvas to appear under the canvas with the painting, which supported the top one. As soon as he noticed what had happened, the technician stopped its lifting on the wall. He and his fellow technician Danijel Roncevic lowered the painting into a horizontal position on a nearby table.
The real shock was yet to come. The glue used 136 years ago, when the painting had been created, began to loosen further. And the canvas continued to be separated by careful manual lifting. What was revealed on the lower, hidden surface stopped the breath of the assembled curators. The lower canvas was also painted. First, on a brown background, a series of letters appeared strung together in the phrase “Gust. K”. Faded from glue, yet clearly legible. Then followed a part of the field where plant motifs could be recognized. Disbelief was replaced by delight – is it a shortened form of Gustav Klimt’s first and last name? And further – did Gustav Klimt use any of his earlier work to strengthen the new canvas? Maybe because at some point he didn’t have enough adequate canvas for a new painting or because he wasn’t satisfied with the first painting?
No one in the Museum doubts any more that it is the work by Gustav Klimt. If they confirm the authorship and additional analyses – the word about the new painting of the world artist immediately went to Vienna, so this weekend two leading Austrian experts on Klimt will arrive in Rijeka on this occasion – it will mean that in Rijeka we don’t have three, but four paintings by Gustav Klimt.
It remains to be seen whether, in that case, the new painting will also find its place in the upcoming exhibition in the Rijeka City Museum. The two painted canvases are currently separated by only a small part. At the Museum, they decided not to do anything further on their own and left the upcoming operation on this delicate work to the experts. At the moment, there are more questions than definitive answers, but we believe that this too will change very soon.