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Provenance Project

The question of looted art 1933-1945

As a fundamental part of its mission the National Gallery of Australia researches, documents and publishes information about the works of art in its collection. In keeping with international and national efforts to determine the provenance (the history of ownership) of works of art for the period 1933-1945 and to fulfil its obligations as an ethical member of the museum community, the NGA is investigating the whereabouts and ownership of every work of art in its collection that is presumed to have been in Europe between 1933 and 1945, the years of Nazi rule and occupation. These works of art are listed on this site.

All known provenance information is shown here, although links in the chain of ownership may be unclear or not yet fully documented. As provenance research continues on these works, this site will be updated to reflect new information. The provenance is listed chronologically, from the first known owner. The date of change of ownership is included when it is established. Images are added when available.

Provenance research is intended to establish an unbroken chain of documented ownership from the time of the work's creation to the present. Even with unlimited time and resources, this goal is not easily achieved. There are numerous legitimate reasons for gaps in known provenance during any time period. The historical information simply may not exist. The work being researched may have been in an unknown private collection for decades, never published or exhibited.

There are no claims against any work in the NGA's collection, which is published as widely as possible. Gaps in the provenance do not imply that any work was stolen, merely that it is not known for certain who held it in the years from 1933 to 1945. The National Gallery of Australia will continue to research the provenance of its works of art.

How To Read Provenance Information

A provenance charts the changes in ownership of a work of art. It depends on documents such as wills, archives, receipts, auction sales and dealers' records. Otherwise, the ownership can be discovered by research such as tracking down publication in exhibition or auction catalogues, memoirs of the artist, or the recollections of artlovers. It is extremely rare to find an unbroken chain of possession since, for example, secrecy may be a condition of sale.

Unbroken links between owners are indicated by the terms:
  • by descent = family inheritance
  • by inheritance = bequest of the previous owner
  • when = sold on that date to the new owner
  • from whom = passing directly to the next owner
Other terms include:
  • acquired = either bought by or given to the new owner in unknown circumstances
  • with = in the hands of an art dealer, either deposited for sale on behalf of the owner, or bought by the firm for resale
  • through = a firm was the agent for the sale, but was not necessarily the owner of the work

Enquiries: Please contact Senior Curator, Research, National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place, PARKES ACT 2601
PO Box 1150, CANBERRA ACT 2601
information@nga.gov.au
phone +61 (0)2 6240 6502
fax +61 (0)2 6249 6529