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Sie sind hier: Home » Girl Friday – the Book of Bad » Girl Friday – the Book of Bad 18. Kissed by Klimt. A History Lesson

Gabbi WernerGirl Friday – the Book of Bad 18. Kissed by Klimt. A History Lesson

Von | 06.12.2013, 9:00 | Kein Kommentar

In the Aida Konditorei I noticed a chocolate box, wrapped in Klimt´s „Kiss“. I thought of his affair with Adele Bloch Bauer – and how fairy tales can turn into nightmares.

Welcome. To the stories I told in many hotelrooms. To a man who had trouble falling asleep. A business deal. He paid for my words. Here they are.


Hotel Sacher, Vienna, late fall 2002

Snow had fallen overnight. The snow patrol  were doing their best to extinguish the waves of white on the pavements. The cars in the streets did a good job in turning the remnants of the snow into a dark grey mush. Since it was not winter yet, it would melt soon, and drizzle in slushes into the sewer. Snow never lasts.

I scampered down the Gumpendorferstraße. It was completely empty, but for a lonely bus passing by every  now and then. It was freezing, the wind bit through the layers of my clothes, my breath froze onto my scarf. I played with the notion of pretending to be on some kind of Siberian expedition. I had to buy crayons. Pretending to buy crayons in the arctic would be more fun. But Vienna is not the north pole. So the Gumpendorferstraße it was.

The excursion at first was rather trivial however,  I ended up at an Aida Konditorei for coffee and cakes. The Formica interior felt comforting, womb-like. The waitresses in their pink outfits  looked like nurses who would bring chocolate and cream as if it was prescription medicine. I sat there and noticed that Aida sold bonbons in Klimt styled packaging. The Kiss  and „Danae“ where on the boxes. I had to think of the Klimts at the Belvedere Museum again.

In 2002, Austria was in a legal dispute about five paintings of Klimt. They were seized by the Nazis from the Bloch Bauer family, together with all assets the family had. Castles, the sugar-factory, porcelain, and all their bank accounts.

The dispute between the rightful heirs of the masterworks and the Austrian government was taken to the supreme court in the United States. Austria kept maintaining that Adele Bloch Bauer had expressed her wish to keep the paintings in Austria after her death. Indeed, there had been a will by Adele, but the true story was different:

The Bloch Bauers were rich. Both came from grand industrial families, Adele Bauers father was a banker and the director of the Orient Express. Ferdinand Bloch was more wealthy even, his sugar-factory  made money like rain. The marriage of Adele and Ferdinand was a match made in heaven, their love was one of  true companionship. A fairy tale. But not with a sugar coated ending. It was a bitter one. For reality has a cruel way of dealing with fairy tale beings. When Ferdinand and Adele married, they made their love life very public, to the extent that they put both of their last names together, very uncommon in those days. They were true equals, so Ferdinand Bloch became Ferdinand Bloch Bauer. His brother married one of Adeles sisters, and they did the same. Four people in love.

Ferdinand was much older than Adele, but he worshipped her. She had a swift intellect and her love and knowledge of the arts was almost as big as her love for and knowledge of Ferdinand. And Ferdinand just kept on worshipping  her, for that was what he was best at. I can imagine them. Sitting. Looking at one another. In silence. Or talking. It would not matter. As long as they were one.

They decided that Gustav Klimt, the new hot thing in art-land those days,  would be commissioned to make seven paintings for them. Two of the paintings were portraits of Adele, and they struck the personality of her meticulously. She could appear so stern and austere, like true royalty. And royal he painted her: gold was used to excess, the ornaments in the background reached back into the time of the pharaohs.

Adele was often taken ill, but she carried her times of illness with almost more grandeur and passion than her healthy times. She would completely succumb into the quixotic idea of suffering for great artistry. One could even argue her case of being one of the first performance artists. Blending her life and her love and her suffering into one big piece of work. I can only imagine what it would be like if she would have Marina Abramovich or Yoko Ono  as guests in her Salons.

For that was what made Ferdinand and Adele famous in their time: They would have guests. At their house. To talk. And entertain. In the mornings after, Adele could be taken by high fever, coughing, headaches, belly aches or any combination of these ailments, once the Salon would open, she was there. Seemingly without any effort, she would slip back into her role as poised and dazzling hostess of their Salon.  The couple was the centre of Vienna’s jeunesse dorée. They were the sun of the new century by any means. The high society would meet up with the great artists of the new time, and party.  Adele, the proud hostess, smoking her cigarettes, a so not-to-do thing for a lady of her class back then. Having conversations with her consort Stefan Zweig, or listening to the newest piece which Mahler  had just conducted.


Her dearest friend was Gustav Klimt. It was rumoured that both had a love relationship. Many Viennese saw erotic connotations in the elaborate ornament that he painted around her, and they were sure that his very sensuous work called „Judith“ was in fact another camouflaged painting of her. The gossip was encouraged to become an open secret when Adele had one room in their palace solely dedicated to Klimts art. It was Adeles favourite room. Gossip in Vienna could be a vicious  thing. Festering, slowly. Melting the sugar away. Until it was gone. That is how fairy tales in true life work, as the Bloch Bauers would find out.

To be Continued. Next Friday. At 9.00h.

Link to German Translation: click  Girl Friday – Buch des Bösen 18. Geküsst von Klimt. Eine wahre Geschichte.

Artwork: Gabbi Werner

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