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Provenance & Repatriation

Every work of art carries with it not only the history of its creator, but of its owners as well. Provenance—the record of ownership for a work of art—provides important documentation explaining who, at various points in history, owned the painting, sculpture or artifact at hand. This is an especially important issue for museums, who pay careful attention to provenance to confirm the authenticity of a work of art and its rightful ownership.

Provenance can be difficult to determine. The information presented here is intended to be a teaching tool for those interested in provenance research, specifically how to read it and what to look out for in terms of periods and areas of added scrutiny. Beyond introducing readers to the subject, the page also aims to be the new home for information about the Toledo Museum of Art’s recently acquired works of art, especially those that require additional provenance research. The Museum welcomes any information from the public that may help close gaps or provide further information into the history of an object’s ownership.

The Museum has been proactive in resolving ownership claims, as outlined in the Repatriation section below, and is currently researching other objects. Information on all of these cases is provided here and will be updated with new developments. Public input and additional information are welcome.

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The Toledo Museum of Art’s investigations are ongoing and include new acquisitions. If you have any questions or information about the works in the Toledo Museum of Art’s collection, please feel free to contact us.

How to Read a Provenance

Recording an object’s provenance can be done in different ways, but the Toledo Museum of Art, along with many other institutions and collectors, follows the standard format put forth by the American Association of Museums.

Peter Paul Rubens
The Crowning of Saint Catherine

1631. Oil on Canvas. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey.

Here’s an example of how a work of art is credited:

Peter Paul Rubens
The Crowning of Saint Catherine, 1631
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey

Here is an example of that work of art’s provenance record:

Church of the Augustinians, Malines, 1633-1765;
Gabriel-Francois-Joseph de Verhulst, Brussels, 1765 (deNeck, Brussels, Aug. 16, 1779, lot 43);
Dukes of Rutland, Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, 1779-1911;
(Francis Kleinberger, Paris, 1911-1912);
Leopold Koppel, Berlin, 1912-1933;
Albert Koppel, Berlin, 1933-1950.
Acquired from the above, through the Rosenberg & Stiebel Gallery, New York, 1950

From The AAM Guide to Provenance Research:

The provenance is listed in chronological order, beginning with the earliest known owner. Life dates of owners, if known, are enclosed in brackets. Uncertain information is indicated by the terms “possibly” or “probably” and explained in footnotes. Dealers, auction houses, or agents are enclosed in parentheses to distinguish them from private owners. Relationships between owners and methods of transactions are indicated in the text and clarified through punctuation: a semicolon is used to indicate that the work passed directly between two owners (including dealers, auction houses, or agents), and 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. Footnotes are used to document or clarify information.

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