A stolen painting has been discovered hidden inside the walls of an Italian art gallery 23 years after it disappeared, it was confirmed on Friday.
Art experts confirmed the painting — Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady — as authentic, Italian prosecutors said.
A gardener found it in December while clearing ivy from the walls of Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in Piacenza, northern Italy.
The artwork was inside a bag, hidden in a hole in the wall.
Portrait of a Lady went missing from the gallery during renovation work in February 1997.
“It’s with no small emotion that I can tell you the work is authentic,” the Piacenza prosecutor Ornella Chicca told reporters at a news conference.
The portrait shows a young woman glancing over her shoulder against a dreamy green background.
During the announcement, it was displayed on an easel and flanked by two police officers.
Portrait of a Lady is a later work by art nouveau master Klimt, who painted it between 1916 and 1917. Its disappearance had been one of the art world’s biggest mysteries.
There had been widespread optimism in Italian art circles that the gardener’s discovery would turn out to be the missing Klimt.
Italy’s Piacenza Sera quoted gallery officials as saying the back of the canvas bore stamps that were put on when the painting was on loan.
Since its discovery, the portrait had been kept in a vault of a local branch of Italy’s central bank.