What better way to honour the mastery of one artist than with the mastery of another?
Since it was purchased by the gallery’s founder in 1925, Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady has made its home at the Galleria Ricci-Oddi in Davide Groppi’s hometown of Piacenza, Italy. Stolen in 1997, Portrait of a Lady remained lost to the world for more than two decades, until it was only just recovered in 2019.
To celebrate the painting’s return, the gallery has given it a dedicated showing, featuring lighting design by master designer and lightsmith Davide Groppi, ingeniously crafted to celebrate the Lady, the painting, and Klimt’s mastery all at once.
Portrait of a Lady by Gustav Klimt, as lit by Davide Groppi
To Light a Lady
Groppi began with consideration of the light in which Gustav Klimt painted Portrait of a Lady, the recreation of which would best reveal the work as Klimt intended it to be experienced. He then painstakingly moulded the light so as to prevent the frame from casting a shadow or the paint itself from reflecting the light and so marring the painting’s presentation.
Embraced with light
Davide Groppi’s next task was to provide additional illumination to highlight the canvas itself as an expression of Klimt’s industry and effort: to tell the story of the painting as an artefact of its time and place. A delicate light on the rear of the painting–imperceptible from the front of the display–reveals signs of aging, seals, cracks, and notes. This emphasizes the reality of this great work as an object incarnate, still of the world although it also transcends it.
The life of a painting told in cracks and seals and worn canvas
To the Lady herself Groppi offered a gentle, slender projector suggestive of a microphone, in order to, in his own words, “give the Lady her voice back after years of silence and darkness.” Finally, to embrace the entire space, Groppi relied on soft, indirect light from the Dot family, which he co-designed with Omar Carraglia, arranged on a circular track suspended from the ceiling.
The Lady is at home.
The overall effect, so distinctive of and common to Davide Groppi’s work and approach to light, is one of profound intimacy, allowing each visitor the opportunity to have a personal experience in connecting with Klimt, his Lady, and her painting.
Lights Used to Illuminate the Lady
Although the lights Davide Groppi conceived to illuminate Portrait of a Lady appear to be custom-made, there are elements of them that may be found in his production designs:
- Dot Sistema – defines the space around the Lady without offending her by way of indirect light from a suspended track.
- Mira – the Lady’s microphone appears to be a member of the Mira family of lights. Also co-designed with Omar Carraglia, Mira offers a powerful yet diffused feature light from a slender, low-profile spot.
Lighting artwork while respecting, protecting, and celebrating it is always a challenging process. If you need solutions for lighting your own collection of objets d’art, visit our website at LightFormSHOP.com or book a consultation with one of our talented associates at our showrooms in Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary!
Want to know more? Read on!
The Artist of Paint
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and member of the Vienna Secessionists. His work was both celebrated and reviled in its time–the latter particularly as his work became increasingly concerned with the female form and eroticism. A fascinating and dynamic man, he eschewed the excess and notoriety common to painters of his period, despite numerous personal affairs. His works are now some of the most valued and sought-after in the world.
The Artist of Light
Davide Groppi (1963-) considers himself an inventor and storyteller more than a designer. He “writes” with light, carving spaces out of darkness with precision and fluidity. Originally a mechanical designer, Groppi began experimenting with lighting in his mid-twenties and soon found his name and works growing in popularity throughout the European design community. Founding his eponymous brand in his hometown of Piacenza, he has become a distinctive and influential voice in lighting design.
Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady is a work of oil on canvas and was painted in his last years, somewhere between 1916 and 1917. It is, in fact, the second Klimt to be painted on this canvas, as x-ray study revealed an earlier painting, known as Portrait of a Young Lady, underneath. The work is particularly lively in its expressionism, and is marked by the influence of Japanese culture and art on his style.
The painting appeared to have been stolen in February 1997, with a high-quality forgery being found in April of that year. It remains unknown whether the two incidents are connected. In December 2019, gardeners clearing ivy from an exterior wall found a recess in the wall. Inside was hidden a bag containing the original painting. Authorities are investigating whether the Lady was secreted there upon its theft or placed there later.