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Painting found in bin bag outside Italian museum could be missing Klimt

Directors of an Italian museum are optimistic that a painting found hidden in a wall this week is a Gustav Klimt work stolen two decades ago, a director said on Thursday.

Painting found in bin bag outside Italian museum could be missing Klimt
The painting recovered in Piacenza this week and believed to be a missing work by Gustav Klimt. Photo: Polizia di Stato/AFP

Preliminary indications appear that the painting of a woman found by gardeners on Tuesday inside an external wall on the museum's grounds could indeed by the 'Portrait of a Lady' painted by the Austrian artist in 1916-1917.

“What interests us the most is whether it's the original or not, rather than the theft investigation,” said Massimo Ferrari, president of the Ricci Oddi Gallery of Modern Art, a museum in Piacenza, in northwest Italy.

“We've got some positive signs, we're optimistic.”

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The painting went missing in February 1997 while the museum was closed for work.

On Tuesday, gardeners removing ivy from a wall found a small ventilation space inside which they discovered the painting, without a frame, wrapped in a black garbage bag. The ivy covering the space had not been cut back for about seven to ten years, Ferrari added.

Tests are underway to authenticate the work, and “we have to wait a little bit to determine the origin of the painting,” Ferrari said. He said that the back of the original painting contains wax and plaster seals, which would be difficult to forge.


Klimt painted his 'Portrait of a Lady' between 1916-17.

In 1996 it was determined through X-ray analysis that the painting covered up another, that of the face of a different woman.

The 55-by-65 cm expressionist work could be worth between €60 and 100 million, Ferrari estimated, stressing that it was difficult to estimate as the work had never been sold on the market.

The Ricci Oddi Gallery of Modern Art carries the name of a rich art collector originally from Piacenza, some 70 kilometres from Milan, who entrusted a collection of 450 mostly 19th-century paintings to the municipality in 1931. 

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CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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