Intimately entwined, utterly oblivious to the world around them, the couple in Gustav Klimt’s Kiss melt into each other’s embrace. Klimt’s most famous work is an icon both of Viennese Jugendstil and European modern art as a whole, the undisputed apogee of his “Golden Phase.” In the first decade of the twentieth century he produced enigmatic, coded ornamental works, which revolve around the mysteries of existence, love, and fulfillment through art. "The Kiss" was first presented to the Viennese public at the exhibition known as the Kunstschau in 1908. It was acquired from this first exhibition by the Belvedere, which at that time was called the Staatsgalerie. Today the painting occupies a place of honor within the museum’s collection. The two figures are on a flower-strewn meadow, gently ascending so the abyss on the right appears all the more striking and abrupt. And yet the couple is protected from danger by a halo of shimmering gold, encapsulating them both, its gleam standing out from the darker golden shade of the background. All reference to a specific time or place has been deliberately omitted. Consequently, the painting is elevated into a universal image. A cause of some consternation is the woman’s kneeling posture, her face turning away from the actual kiss. Or is she turning toward the viewer in blissful ecstasy? Does this, in fact, address the ambivalence between submission and rejection between the sexes? Gustav Klimt, Kuss, 1908/09 The predominance of gold lends the painting an air of exquisite preciousness and also conjures up religious and cultic associations. The gold in the background is interpreted as an ancient symbol of the divine or the sun. Klimt found his first source of inspiration for this on a trip to the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna in 1903. The variety of different ornaments is a fundamental part of Klimt’s depiction. And it is striking that hard, rectangular forms have been placed almost exclusively on the side of the man. The woman’s clothing, by contrast, is embellished with rounded, floral adornments. A certain merging of the ornamental shapes reflects a longing to abolish all differences and divisions – not only those between man and woman.