Provenance Research

The Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) takes provenance research seriously, and is committed to researching the provenance of works of art in its collection and to making this information publicly available.  The study of provenance is the study of an artwork’s ownership history.  Ideally, the ownership history of a work – be it a painting, sculpture, drawing, or work in another media – would be known from the time the work was created until the moment when the museum acquired it.  However, to have the complete ownership history for a work – especially a work made prior to the 20th century – is very rare, and most often there are gaps in the known provenance.  The most likely cause for this is incomplete record-keeping by prior owners, and the concomitant loss of knowledge of a work’s prior history when it changed hands.  Just as many people today may not know when or from where their parents or grandparents acquired a piece of family furniture or a painting or print, so too over the centuries did such information become lost to past collectors.

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on learning about the provenance of works of art that were or might have been looted during the Nazi era, 1933-45.  Since the 1990s, the AMAM has undertaken significant research on European paintings in its collection that have gaps in provenance during those years, and has additionally begun expanding research to sculptures, decorative arts, and works on paper.  Even more recently, there has been attention paid to another category of artworks:  archaeological material and ancient art, be it Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Asian or from the Americas.  The AMAM is committed to researching the provenance of these works in its collection, and to making the findings available here.

            Nazi-Era Provenance Research

            Archaeological Material and Ancient Art Provenance Research

            For Further Information