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Provenance Research

This guide is intended to introduce you to the basic tools and many types of resources that will help you get started in your quest to learn the story of an an artwork.

Researching Provenance

This guide will introduce you to the basic tools and many types of resources that will help you get started in your quest to learn the story of an a work of art.

The term “provenance” refers to the origins and history of something. In the art world, it typically encompasses the history of ownership and in essence, the life of the artwork. This “life story” of the object is fundamental to determine its authenticity and value. It also informs how the work is interpreted by curators and other scholars. The provenance of an object also enriches our understanding of an artwork; what makes it significant in addition to its visual appeal.

Other General Sources

Online

Print Sources

Genealogical Resources

Auction and Sales Results Sources

Auction sales resources are a great starting point for researching an object or the proliferation of an artist's work, and are readily available through the PMA Library Digital Resources page and Online Catalog

Online

Print (sales catalogues, and some periodicals such as Art News )

Artist and Collector's Marks Resources

Online

Print

Early Literature on Collections

Image Archives and Collections

Private and Public Collection Catalogues and Monographs

From the PMA Library Collection

Blogs

Museum and other art blogs are good sources of fascinating provenance discoveries.

Sophie's Story: the Narrow Escape of a Painting by Paul Klee