Gardeners who found a stolen Klimt masterpiece sealed into a wall in a bin bag are demanding a finder’s fee worth EUR 100,000.
Gustav Klimt’s ‘Portrait of a Lady’ disappeared from the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in Piacenza, Italy, in February 1997.
The gallery’s alarm system was out of action at the time due to renovation work.
Many considered the work lost forever until two gardeners pruning ivy found it in a recess in the gallery’s external wall nearly 23 years later.
Now the workers who made the 2019 discovery are reportedly demanding a finder’s fee of EUR 50,000 (GBP 43,000) each from the gallery.
The gallery is reported to have rejected their claims and is understood to have hired a lawyer to prepare for a legal battle.
The dispute is said to have been going on for nine months already, since a letter formalising the request for cash was sent in October last year.
The gardeners are named in reports as Stole Koteski and Maksym Mahlyuk, who are Macedonian and Ukrainian respectively.
Their joint EUR-100,000 claim seems to be particularly modest.
The Italian Civil Code establishes a right for finders to receive 10 per cent of the value of items found and returned by chance.
As the work is currently valued at EUR 60 million (GBP 52 million), a finder’s fee of EUR 6 million (GBP 5.2 million) would seem closer to the mark.
The gardening company the men worked for has distanced itself from the claims for cash, which were made privately.
Austrian painter Klimt (1862-1918) created ‘Portrait of a Lady’ between 1916 and 1917.
The work measures 60 by 55 centimetres (24 by 22 inches).
It can be seen at the exhibition ‘Klimt. The man, the artist, his world’ until 24th July.