|Gustav Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano", 1899|
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief
Mizzi Zimmerman was the red-haired teenager in Gustav Klimt's 1899 painting, Schubert at the Piano. In Anne-Marie O'Connor's 2012 book, Lady in Gold, the journalist mentions this work in describing the seduction powers of the artist. In this painting of the Austrian composer, Mizzi is pregnant with Klimt's son. The 'whispery silk gown' Mizzi models is lent by Serena Lederer, a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected 14 of Klimt's paintings, including a portrait by Klimt of Egon Schiele's mistress, Valerie Neuzil.
Mizzi also posed nude for another of the artist's works, Naked Truth, but Klimt had no intention of marrying the pregnant Catholic girl, O'Connor writes. Klimt, who had also impregnated another woman at the same time, told Mizzi that he would be focusing his energies on a big commission to paint ceiling murals for the University of Vienna -- Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence. Mizzi told her mother of her pregnancy, O'Connor reports: her stepfather threw Mizzi out of the house and she begged the artist for financial support.
But we can't see Schubert at the Piano in any museum. This and the other Klimt paintings collected by Lederer, were destroyed in 1945 when retreating Nazis set Schloss Immendorf on fire. The paintings from the Lederer collection had been placed at the residence of Baron Rudolf Freudenthan, an officer in the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), for safekeeping in 1943. O'Connor recounts that the Lederer Klimt collection of "as many as fourteen spectacular Klimt paintings" included Golden Apple Tree, Philosophy and Jurisprudence (which the Lederers had purchased when the University of Vienna rejected them), Girl Friends and Music II ("The precise number of paintings burned at Schloss Immendorf is unknown, O'Connor notes).