- Definition -
The provenance of a work of art is a historical record of its ownership, although a work’s provenance comprehends far more than its pedigree. The provenance is also an account of changing artistic tastes and collecting priorities, a record of social and political alliances, and an indicator of economic and market conditions influencing the sale or transfer of the work of art.
An ideal provenance history would provide a documentary record of owners’ names; dates of ownership, and means of transference, ie. inheritance, or sale through a dealer or auction; and locations where the work was kept, from the time of its creation by the artist until the present day. Unfortunately, such complete, unbroken records of ownership are rare, and most works of art contain gaps in provenance.
Provenance can bolster claims of a work’s authenticity. Inventory records of an object’s presence in a particular collection or in the artist’s purported workshop provide strong evidence of a work’s authenticity. As a factor in establishing authenticity, a complete ownership history adds value to a work of art. Similarly, a distinguished provenance, recording the work in the collection of a prominent owner or collection, may have a positive impact on the work’s value.
(Source: International Foundation for Art Research)
Every item within our Gallery will have its own provenance. An antiquity’s provenance is simply its history in the modern era, beginning from when it was removed from its place of origin and continuing to the present. Some objects will contain more provenance than others and this does not necessarily mean that the latter object is more illicit, but that simply the documentation trail is less extensive. In theory, the less expensive a particular piece the less extensive the trail. The early details of an object’s provenance may include information on when it was found, who found it, and the circumstances of the discovery and removal. Subsequent details may then describe the means by which the antiquity arrived at its current location: who acquired it, by what means, and how it was passed down to the present owner.
As the need for provenance is a very recent concept it is normal that not all objects will have documentation for every leg of its journey. It is then that it is vital to buy from a reputable dealer.