Provenance Research Resources
This portal for provenance research resources was created in 2018 to honor the twentieth anniversary of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.
In June 1998 a landmark report on Nazi art looting was written by a task force convened by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and chaired by then–Met director Philippe de Montebello. This report formed the basis of the Washington Principles, signed by forty-four governments in December 1998, as well as the "Recommended Procedures for Providing Information to the Public about Objects Transferred in Europe during the Nazi Era," drafted by the American Alliance of Museums in October 2000.
Since then, American museums have made a wealth of information publicly available by posting online the ownership histories (provenance) of the artworks in their care. This shift toward increased transparency and accessibility coincided with the rise of new technologies that made it possible to convert paper files to linked open data. Today, the provenance of countless objects is posted on the websites of American museums.
We invite you to examine the historical documents and explore the provenance research projects currently happening at The Met, across the United States, and abroad.
Method 1: Search The Met's Provenance Research Project
The Met offers a searchable database specifically for artworks in The Met's collection that were or could have been in Continental Europe between 1933 and 1945. Research is a work in progress. The database currently gives access to 3,401 works in the online collection, which has over 495,000 objects.
(You can also access this page below, in the section "Provenance Today.")
Method 2: Search the Online Collection
Provenance information is also offered for roughly 350,000 objects and artworks in the Met's online collection.
Here's how to find the provenance information for an object or artwork.
1. Click "Search" at upper right and enter keywords (e.g., artist name, title, etc.). Click "Go" to see your search results:
2. If necessary, click "Art" to focus your search results.
3. Click on the object you are interested in to view the artwork's online object page.
4. On the object page, scroll down and expand the "Provenance" panel:
Provenance Stories on Collection Insights
We sat down to chat with Associate Curator Christel Force about her work as a provenance researcher tracing the life of looted artworks.
Two researchers trace the journey of two fifteenth-century medieval objects from their confiscation by the Nazis to their restitution and subsequent acquisition by The Met.
The story of a remarkable young woman and how her painting by Paul Klee escaped confiscation by the Nazis and came to The Met.
How James Rorimer, future director of The Met, visited a fairy-tale castle in Germany and discovered a trove of paperwork documenting Nazi art looting in World War II.
The Met is committed to researching and publishing the provenance, or ownership history, of its collection.
A transatlantic initiative to think strategically and collaboratively about provenance research in art museums.
Provenance research projects at museums in the U.S. and Europe.
For International Day of Provenance in 2020, the organization Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. has published a series of articles on provenance research.
A Historic Moment in 1998
On July 14, 1998, the National Press Club invited the director of The Met to discuss the issue of works of art confiscated by the Nazis during World War II.
The 1998 Conference and Documents
Hosted by the Department of State and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, November 30–December 3, 1998
Released in connection with the Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, Washington, DC, December 3, 1998
Recommended procedures for providing information to the public about objects transferred in Europe during the Nazi era
Museums and Artwork in WW II
Learn about the Monuments Men and Women who saved works of art during World War II—including the former director of The Met, James J. Rorimer.