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Art History and Visual Studies: A Research Guide: Provenance

This research guide to art history and visual studies emphasizes reference resources and databases available to members of the Cornell community through the Cornell University Library.

Catalogues Raisonnés

Many catalogues raisonnés provide ownership information for individual works of art.

Some exhibition catalogs do the same for works in the "checklist" section of the catalog.

Getty Provenance Research Resources

The Getty Provenance Research web site provides several databases for the study of the ownership of works of art with an emphasis on works of art produced in Western Europe from the 16th- to the early-20th century. Individual databases include


IFAR (International Foundation for Art Research) brings together a number of important resources for provenance and cultural property research, including a very helpful Provenance Guide. It also includes two databases: International Cultural Property Ownership and Export Legislation (ICPOEL) and Case Law and Statutes (CLS). The databases are designed to “help users navigate the increasingly complex and abundant body of legislation and case law regarding the acquisition and ownership of artworks.”


AAM Guide to Provenance Research

Art Reproductions Research

Some museums and art research libraries maintain photographic archives of art reproductions useful in identifying changes, alterations and variations. Try:

Several museum and art research organizations have compiled histories associated with works of art that can provide valuable data for the reconstruction of ownership histories:

The Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (dealers’ records, auction catalogues and exhibition catalogues)


Missing & Lost

Other Resources

Restitution of Lost or Looted Art
Sites dedicated to restitution efforts and provenance of artworks that may be lost, stolen, or looted.

National Archives and Records Administration. A descriptive guide to records on holocaust-era assets at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. Includes links to related resources at other institutions.

The Documentation Project. The Project for the Documentation of Wartime Cultural Loses, based at Loyola University, compiles digitized copies of important documents relating to the theft and recovery of cultural property.

European Commission on Looted Art (ECLA). The commission responsible for all matters relating to Nazi looted art and other cultural property in Europe. Assists families, communities, and institutions with the research, identification, and recovery of looted cultural property.

First Internet Research Catalog (Verlustkatalog). Established by the Koordinierungstelle der Länder für die Rückführung von Kulturgütern (Coordination Office of the Federal States for the Return of Cultural Treasures) to keep close contact with all affected museums, libraries, and archives and to collect the missing objects and the research results in a database especially designed for this purpose.

Lost Art Internet Database. A project of the Federal Government of Germany and the federal states of Germany for registering cultural assets that were relocated, transported and, especially with regard to Jewish citizens, confiscated as a result of their persecution during World War II and the Nazi period.

Musees nationaux recuperation. A searchable catalog of 2,000 unclaimed works of art recovered after World War II, and held in the care of the National Museums of France."


Searching tips

Try these subject headings to look for books in the Cornell Library Catalog:


Art--Collectors and collecting (then broken down by geographical region)

Art thefts

Cultural property --Protection

War and art

Art treasures in war

World War, 1939-1945 -- Art and the war

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