(Bloomberg) -- A Gustav Klimt painting thought to have been lost for almost a century sold at the lower end of its assessed value, with bidders deterred by the artwork’s ownership during the Nazi occupation of Austria. 

Klimt’s Portrait of Fräulein Lieser (1917) hit the block Wednesday at the Kinsky Auction House in Vienna and was sold for €30 million ($32 million). The hammer price paid by an unidentified bidder from Hong Kong was at the bottom end of the €30 to €50 million assessed value and well below June’s $108 million sale of a Klimt portrait, including auction house fees, at Sotheby’s London in June.

The auction result was “disappointing” compared with other Klimt works, Kinsky auction house Director Ernst Ploil said in a broadcast interview on Puls 24 television. Questions over the history and ownership of the painting contributed to the muted bidding, he said.

Even as Austrian modernists including Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka have grown in popularity among global collectors, their best works have usually hit the block in bigger art markets such as London or New York. Wednesday’s sale still eclipsed the previous €7 million record for an artwork auctioned in Austria. 

The unidentified owners of the painting — which was last seen publicly in 1925 before resurfacing 18 months ago — sought a local Austrian agent to help maneuver restitution laws designed to return stolen property to the heirs of Nazi victims. 

Archival research suggests the painting may have been bartered for food during World War II before its then Jewish owner, Henriette Lieser, was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. 

While the painting never appeared on the restitutions lists filed by families who suffered expropriation, Kinsky brokered deals between its current owners and Lieser-family descendants that preclude any future litigation. “All conceivable claims of all parties involved will be settled and fulfilled through the auctioning of the artwork, and on payment of the highest bid,” Kinsky said. 

“The big question going into the auction was whether such a small house could generate a critical mass of bidders,” said Clare McAndrew at Arts Economics advisory. “Volume at the high end can be thin.” 

The dearth of pieces valued $50 million or more was a major contributor to last year’s stalled art market, she continued. High borrowing rates, geopolitical instability and economic volatility led to a 4% slide in global sales. 

The Klimt painting, which is unsigned by the artist, was originally expected to fetch between $33 million and $55 million. But the scarcity of high-value Klimt works coming to auction along with the Lieser portrait’s pristine condition, had raised hopes for even higher bids. 

“It’s almost like it was when it left the studio 100 years ago,” said Alexandra Grausam, the conservator Kinsky hired to examine and prepare the painting for sale. “It wasn’t exposed to sunlight or smoke or handled. Its colors just pop.”

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