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Provenance Guidelines & Resources

Complete provenance: the exception, not the rule.

It is rare to have complete provenance for an object, particularly for works hundreds of years old. Missing information may be due to lost or destroyed documentation, forgotten oral histories, or a good-faith gift or purchase made without any record of the exchange. The provenance information posted here reflects current research to date (updated 27 April 2015).

How to read a Provenance (+ use of footnotes)

The provenance format presented here is a hybrid of those used by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, and the Getty Center, Los Angeles.

Provenance is listed in chronological order, beginning with the artist and date of execution and moving forward to the present day. 

The date range of ownership precedes each name followed by, if known, birth and death dates and the location(s) of owners. 

“Private collection” indicates that we know the work was owned by a person or entity, but not a dealer, and can mean one of two things: (1) We do not know the name of the owner or seller of that work; or (2) we know the name of the owner or seller, but it is a condition of the sale or gift that his/her identity not be revealed.

Dealers, auction houses, or agents are enclosed in parentheses to distinguish them from private owners.

“Private Dealer” means that we know the seller was a dealer but we do not know his/her name.

In cases where it is known that an object was sold on consignment, i.e. through a dealer or auction house, parentheses are used to delineate that the object was with the person but not legally owned by him or her. 

Relationships between owners and methods of transactions are indicated by punctuation: (1) A semicolon is used to indicate that the work passed directly between two owners (including dealers, auction houses, or agents); and (2) a period is used to separate two owners (including dealers, auction houses, or agents) if a direct transfer did not occur or is not known to have occurred.

Uncertain information is indicated by the terms “possibly” or “probably.”

A few common formats for date ranges of ownership include:

1955–1970
The work entered this collection in 1955 and left it in 1970.

1955–
The work entered this collection in 1955, but it is not known when it left.

1955
It is not known when the work entered this collection, but it left in 1955.

by 1955–; or before 1955–
The work was in this collection by 1955, but may have entered it earlier.

–still in 1955
The work was still in this collection in 1955, and may have left it at a later date.

n.d.
An owner name with “n.d.” (no date) indicates that the work was in this collection, but precise dates are not known. It is known that the work was in this collection between the owners listed prior to and after it, though there may be other unknown owners in the chain of ownership.

1970
The work was accessioned into the Johnson Museum’s collection in 1970 and is still in the collection.

 

GUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES

Nazi-Era Provenance

American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

AAM’s Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era, issued November 1999, and amended April 2001

AAM’s Recommended Procedures for Providing Information to the Public about Objects Transferred in Europe During the Nazi Era

Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal (NEPIP)

Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD)

Report of the AAMD Task Force on the Spoliation of Art during the Nazi/World War II Era (1933-1945), June 4, 1998 (PDF download)

Art Museums and the Restitution of Works Stolen by the Nazis, June 1, 2007

AAMD Object Registry

Additional Policies and Reports

Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA)

International Council of Museums (ICOM)

 

Ancient Art and Archeological Materials Provenance

American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

Resources: Ethics, Standards and Best Practices

Characteristics of Excellence for US Museums

Collections Stewardship

Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD)

Object Registry: New Acquisitions of Archaeological Material and Works of Ancient Art

Guidelines and Policies:
Professional Practices in Art Museums, January 19, 2011

2013 Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art, January 20, 2013

New Report on Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art, June 3, 2008

Report of the AAMD Subcommittee on Incoming Loans of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art, February 26, 2006

Report of the AAMD Task Force on the Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art, June 10, 2004

Art Museums and the International Exchange of Cultural Artifacts, January 31, 2002

Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)

About AIA: Policies and Documents  

UNESCO

World Heritage Centre

UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, November 17, 1970 (1970 UNESCO Convention)

Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution

Provenance Research

Cultural Property in the Museum Environment

International Council of Museums (ICOM)

Red Lists of Cultural Objects at Risk

Cultural Heritage Center, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State

Cultural Property Protection

Laws, Conventions, and Agreements, including:

Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 1983 (19 USC 2601 et seq.)

Chart of Memoranda of Understanding

INTERPOL

Works of Art

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE")

Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations

ICE Factsheets

National Park Service, US Department of the Interior

American Antiquities Act, 1906 (16 USC 431-433)

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, 1990 (25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.) ("NAGPRA"):
Laws, Regulations, and Guidance

 

Bibliography

Feigenbaum, Gail and Inge Jackson Reist. Provenance: An Alternate History of Art. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2013.

Nazi-Era Provenance

American Association of Museums. Vitalizing Memory: International Perspectives on Provenance Research. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 2005.

Feliciano, Hector. The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World’s Greatest Works of Art. New York: Basic Books, 1997.

Nicholas, Lynn H. The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Wechsler, Helen J., Teri Coate-Saal, John Lukavic, and Roxana Adams. Museum Policy and Procedure for Nazi-Era Issues. Resource Report. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 2001.

Yeide, Nancy H., Konstantin Akinsha, and Amy L. Walsh. The AAM Guide to Provenance Research. Washington, DC: The American Association of Museums, 2001.

 

Ancient Art and Archeological Materials Provenance

Cuno, James B. Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Felch, Jason, and Ralph Frammolino. Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 

Fitz Gibbon, Kate, ed. Who Owns the Past?: Cultural Policy, Cultural Property and the Law. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, in association with American Council for Cultural Policy, 2005. 

La Follette, Laetitia, ed. Negotiating Culture: Heritage, Ownership, and Intellectual Property. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013. 

O’Keefe, Patrick J. Commentary on the UNESCO 1970 Convention on Illicit Traffic. Leicester: Institute of Art and Law, 2000. 

Prott, Lyndel V. Commentary on the Unidroit Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Objects 1995. Leicester: Institute of Art and Law, 1997. 

Watson, Peter, and Cecilia Todeschini. The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities, from Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums. New York: BBS Public Affairs, 2006. 

Waxman, Sharon. Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World. New York: Times Books, 2008. 

 

NAGPRA

Adams, Roxana. Implementing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, Technical Information Service, 2001.

Echo-Hawk, Roger C. Keepers of Culture: Repatriating Cultural Items Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2002.

 

Online resources

American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation: Mending the Circle: A Native American Repatriation Guide

Frick Collection: Provenance Research

Getty Research Institute: Collecting and Provenance Research

National Association of Tribal Historical Preservation Officers: Summaries of Law and Regulations

Smithsonian Institution: Provenance in the World War II Era, 1933-1945

University of Glasgow: Chinese Art-Research into Provenance

US National Archives and Records Administration: Holocaust International Resources