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Nazi-Era Provenance

The Provenance Research Project on the Nazi/World War II era

Research on provenance (the history of an artwork’s ownership) is an ongoing function of curatorial research at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In short, we try to trace the history of a work of art from the moment it was made until it comes into our collection. Frequently, it is impossible to document a complete provenance, as there are many reasons we may not be able to account for every episode in the history of a work of art. A common challenge is that, traditionally, provenance records have often reflected an owner or former owner's wish for anonymity. Additionally, the ephemeral nature of historical records, which are often lost or destroyed over time, can further confound research. Despite these challenges, we have tried to provide complete information based on the resources available.

A number of historical factors affect the nature of this research, and a number of varied sources, including correspondence, invoices, and shipping documents, drawn from a wide range of reference materials, assist the researcher in determining provenance. We consult all these materials in order to create the most complete provenance we can.

In response to the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) guidelines issued in June 1998, the paintings department of the Cleveland Museum of Art embarked upon a major research project to investigate in depth the provenance of paintings that might relate to Nazi-era art looting during the period 1933–1945. Research of museum materials including curatorial and registrarial files, as well as national and international libraries and archives, began almost immediately, and remains an ongoing priority of the paintings department. Subsequent to that effort, the museum reviewed its holdings of European sculpture in a similar manner.

We have no reason to believe any of these works have serious provenance problems. Provenance research findings posted here are limited to the 373 works of art in our European paintings collection and the 86 in our European sculpture collection that either have gaps in their provenance or that were known to have been confiscated by the Nazis during their time of power. Gaps in provenance reflect the current state of research and do not indicate that a work of art was involved in the Nazis’ systematic art plunder. Rather, in any instance where fully documented information is not available for this period (thus creating a gap in provenance), the work of art has been included on the list. Color images of works are provided as available.

Due to the nature of this research, it is a continuous and ongoing task. This list will be updated on a regular basis to reflect our findings. Should you have any questions or information relating to these provenances, please contact the museum at ProvenanceResearch@clevelandart.org.

The Cleveland Museum of Art continues to research works in its collection that could have been in Continental Europe between 1933 and 1945 and that either have gaps in their provenance or that were known to have been confiscated by the Nazis during their time of power. To date, the museum has posted works on its Nazi-Era Provenance page from its European paintings and sculpture collections and a limited group of its drawing collection that meet this criteria. With the advent of the museum’s open access program, works may be displayed that meet the above criteria, but have not yet been added to the Nazi-Era Provenance page.

 

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