Collecting and Provenance: A Multidisciplinary Approach

Collecting and Provenance: A Multidisciplinary Approach


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The study of provenance—the history of the creation and ownership of an artefact, work of art, or specimen—provides insights into the history of taste and collecting, illuminating the social, economic, and historic trends in which an object was created and collected. It is as much a history of people as it is of objects, and its study often reveals intricate networks of relationships, patterns of activity and motivations.

This book promotes the study of the history of collecting and collections in all their variety through the lens of provenance, and explores the subject as a cross-disciplinary activity. Perhaps for the first time in a publication, it draws on expertise ranging from art history and anthropology, to natural history and law, looking at periods from antiquity through the 18th century and the Holocaust era to the present, and materials from Europe and the Americas to China and the Pacific. The issues raised are wide-ranging, touching on aspects of authenticity, cultural meaning and material transformation and economic and commercial drivers, as well as collector and object biography.

The book fills a gap in the study of collecting and provenance, taking the subject holistically and from multiple standpoints, better to reflect the widening interest in provenance from a range of disciplinary perspectives. This book will be a service to the field, from established scholars and museum professionals to students of collecting history, cultural heritage, and museum studies.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781538127575
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/28/2019
Pages: 450
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.72(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

Jane Milosch directs the Smithsonian Institution’s Provenance Research Exchange Program, and was founding director of the Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI), which focused on WWII-era provenance research, international cultural heritage, and training programs. She previously served as Senior Program Officer for Art, leading pan-institutional programs and strategic planning efforts, and was appointed the U.S. Representative to Germany’s “Schwabing Art Trove” Task Force. She has held curatorial positions at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. and in Detroit, Iowa, and Munich, Germany, and is an Honorary Professor in the School of Culture & Creative Arts, University of Glasgow. She was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2020.

Nick Pearce holds the Sir John Richmond Chair of Fine Art at the University of Glasgow, and specializes in the arts of China, most particularly in the context of the history of collecting. His career has spanned both museums and universities, as he has held positions at the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Burrell Collection in Glasgow, and at Durham and Edinburgh universities. He joined the University of Glasgow in 1998, where he has held the positions of Head of History of Art and Head of the School of Culture & Creative Arts, and is a Smithsonian Research Associate.

Table of Contents


Lynn H. Nicholas, Independent Scholar


Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Institution



Nick Pearce, University of Glasgow, and Jane C. Milosch, Smithsonian Institution

Provenance: Past and Future Challenges

1.The Provenance of Provenances

Christian Huemer, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

2.Intellectual Property and Ownership History

Christel H. Force, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

3.Provenance Research in Museums: From the Back of the House

to the Front

Jane C. Milosch and Andrea Hull, Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI)

4.Transforming Research Methodologies: The Frick Art Reference Library's Collaborative Approach

Louisa Wood Ruby and Samantha Deutch, The Frick Art Reference Library

5.Digging in Digital Archives: Recovering Context for the Getty Museum's Orpheus Mosaic

Nicole Budrovich, J. Paul Getty Museum

6.Exhibiting Provenance in the University Museum: A Case Study

Nancy Karrels, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

7.Provenance in 2050

David Newbury, J. Paul Getty Trust, and Louise Lippincott, Carnegie Museum of Art

Objects in Motion

8.Provenance as Palimpsest: The Mazarin Venus

Judith Barr, J. Paul Getty Museum

9.Archaeology, Fakery, and Lunacy: N.S. Brown's Chinese Neolithic Collection

Nick Pearce, University of Glasgow

10.The Importance of Provenance in Nineteenth-Century Paris and Beyond: Four Works of Art from Prince Pierre Soltykoff's Famed Collection of Medieval Art

Christine E. Brennan, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

11.The Medieval Bury Chest: Mapping the Journey from Durham Cathedral to the Burrell Collection, Glasgow

Elizabeth Hancock, University of Glasgow; Erma Hermens, Rijksmuseum; and Lindsay Gordon, Glasgow Museums

12.Plunder, Dissolution, and Dodgy Dealing: The International Market for Spanish Art in the Nineteenth Century

Hilary Macartney, University of Glasgow, and Véronique Gerard Powell, Paris-Sorbonne Université

13.Documenting the Violin Trade in Paris: The Archives of Albert Caressa and Émile Français, 1930-1945

Carla Shapreau, University of California, Berkeley; Jean-Philippe Échard and Christine Laloue, Musée de la musique, Paris

14.Twice Plundered, and Still Far from Home: Tracing Nazi-Looted Books in Minsk and Moscow

Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University

Museums and Collection Formation: Provenancing Art and Nature

15.Lost and Found: Reestablishing Provenance for an Entire Museum Collection

Ann McMullen and Maria Galban, National Museum of the American Indian

16.Thomas Pattinson Yeats (1746-1782), Naturalist: Connecting Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, and William Hunter

E. Geoffrey Hancock, University of Glasgow

17.A Kato Mosi Kaka and Other Tongan Treasures from the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) in the Smithsonian Institution

Adrienne L. Kaeppler, National Museum of Natural History

18.Provenance and Place in Indigenous Australia

Gaye Sculthorpe, British Museum

19.Pursuing Provenance: Perspectives on the Arts of Africa

Christine Mullen Kreamer, National Museum of African Art

20.One Object, Three Histories: Provenancing the Dromedary

Louise Lippincott, Carnegie Museum of Art

21.Forest Gold

Edward J. Bronikowski, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park Conservation Biology Institute

Provenance and Collecting Policies: Practical, Legal, and Ethical Challenges

22.A Voyage into the Half-known: Museum Ethics in the Early Twentieth Century

Petra Winter, Staatliche Museen, and Carola Thielecke, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz

23.Forgotten Language of the Ledger: Signaling Ownership, Authority, and Provenance with Museum Accession Status

Joshua Gorman, National Museum of American History

24.The Holy Family on an...

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