Nazi-Era Provenance Research
In response to the systematic, widespread looting by the Nazi regime, the provenance of works that changed hands in German-occupied Europe during the Nazi era has long been an area of particular focus for The Met. In 1998, The Met was a leader in drafting guidelines that govern the discovery of spoliated art in museum collections and that were adopted by the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums) and the Association of Art Museum Directors. The Met's The Met's Collections Management Policy also incorporates these guidelines.
In 2000, the Museum began the Provenance Research Project, the purpose of which is to determine whether any works of art in the Museum's collection could have been unlawfully appropriated in the Nazi era and not subsequently restituted to their rightful owners.
The Museum first published online the ownership history and images for all European paintings with changed ownership in continental Europe between 1933 and 1945 or whose provenance is unknown during that time.1 As more collector and dealer archives become available, the Museum continues to research the ownership history of these first-published works. As research is completed on other parts of the Museum's collection, additional artworks are added to the Provenance Research Project list. This list is also published on the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal, a central registry for U.S. museums.
If the Museum receives a claim that an artwork in the Museum's collection was unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution, the Museum will seek to resolve the matter in an equitable, appropriate, and mutually agreeable manner. Should The Met determine that a work in its collection was unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution, the Museum will make this information public.
The Met’s commitment to this work has led to a number of resolutions, including works being restituted:
- Claude Monet, The Garden of Monet's House in Argenteuil
- School of Tobias Verhaecht, City on a Mountain Lake
- Meissen snuffbox
- School of Pieter Neeffs the Elder, Interior of a Church
- Two bronze medals and a plaquette
- Johann Jacob Eybelwieser, Saint Augustine on Clouds Surrounded by Angels
- Anonymous, Anamorphic Drawing of a Stag
- Silver stem cup
Also in keeping with these guidelines, the Museum is making public the circumstances of the Nazi-ordered sale of the Pringsheim Collection.
The Met also identifies a category of objects in the collection (57 works) that were once stolen, seized, or sold under duress during the Nazi era and subsequently restituted to their rightful owners, who then put the works on the market or donated them to the Museum. In addition to sharing this information online, The Met has embraced a New York State law passed in August 2022 that requires museums to publicly identify any artworks in their collection that changed hands in Europe during the Nazi era (1933–1945) due to involuntary means. Now that the law has passed, the Museum is determining how best to present the information for visitors in the galleries.
The Met welcomes inquiries or information regarding the Provenance Research Project or Nazi-era provenance of works in the Museum's collection by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explore provenance research projects at The Met and museums around the world.