The first “day of the provenance research”: where is the art?


Provenance research is often a lengthy and troublesome Search and archive work. Not infrequently, it provides material for a Thriller. We pay them a visit in an art history Kriminalistin in Bonn.

Central source for provenance researchers and exhibition makers: the inventory books of the Museum

It’s a movie is a Mature story, the Heidi Gansohr is saying as she stands next to a magnificent oil Painting in the rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn. The story begins with three initials on a picture frame and leads through a variety of Nazi art dealer on the most sinuous paths through the Nazi Germany of the 1940s – from Cologne, Germany Herrmann göring’s country estate Carinhall at the end to Bonn.

The picture with the title “presentation in the temple, and the Transfiguration of Christ” by an unknown artist in the 16th century. Century have painted. For a long time it was considered lost – until the “Monuments Men”, the search as a special unit of the US Army in the Second world war stolen art goods, and in security to bring the image in the warehouse of an art dealer to discover and to return to Bonn.

Art historian Heidi Gansohr in front of the long-lost image of the “presentation in the temple, and the Transfiguration of Christ”

The art trade during the Nazi reign

Heidi Gansohrs Job is, such stories. The PhD is an art historian in the LVR Museum in Bonn for the provenance research, i.e. for the identification of the origin of art goods. Since the mid-1990s, she scours the main, officially the Museum’s holdings and, in particular, the acquisition takes after 1933. During the Nazi occupation, the Museum creates “huge”, the Regime-pleasing works of art, tells Heidi Gansohr in the DW-Interview in her office in the back of the house to the Museum.

A lot of wrongly Acquired has already been restituted after 1945, i.e. to the original owners or their heirs returned. But there were still 500 paintings, the acquisition of which was to clarify questionable and clearly. How these painstaking clarification, shows Gansohr in the archives of the Museum. Here, shelves are volumes of thick-bodied Inventory. About the, “1936.f.f.” stands for. Band for Band, and side to side crawling the historian meticulously for Clues to possible robbery of art – and the art-historical Kriminalistin.

In lists like these, look for provenance researchers to draw attention to looted art

It is often the small signals that let you noisy. A casually-mentioned Name or a location, which may be indicative of networks of the Nazi Regime-middle art dealers. As the Name Gurlitt is a falls immediately. The art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, whose collection Share 2012 in a spectacular way when his son was discovered, was deeply involved in the Nazi art policy. And not only he. “Yes,” says Heidi Gansohr, “Gurlitt was not alone in this world”. Network analysis and the systematic matching of names, therefore, are important instruments of their provenance work.

Every year: “day of the provenance research”

That probably countless culture could collide with facilities in Germany, museums, collections, libraries, on similar notes in their basements and held by, the policy, the importance of intensive provenance research to recognize. The bulky concept has made the debate about Nazi-looted art specialist circles. In 1998, more than 40 States signed the so-called “Washington Declaration” and committed themselves “to find fair and equitable solutions” with the Victims of the NS-Kunstraubs or their heirs.

Successful Restitution: A legacy of the family Rosenberg reviewed the looted art picture “Sitting woman” by Matisse

Since then, Heidi have Gansohr and their peers, while institutional tailwind, but this is for the art historian, just a drop on the hot stone. After all, was created as a Central point of contact for questions from the museums, the German center for cultural property losses in Magdeburg.

Asked, what would you want from the policy, emphasizing the art historian, far from all of their colleagues were in such a comfortable Situation, to be fully on the lengthy provenance research focus.

This year, an international Association of provenance researchers, held for the first Time a “day of the provenance research”. He will in future be held annually on the second Wednesday in April. More than 70 cultural institutions in Germany, Austria, great Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland have taken part, such as the German Historical Museum in Berlin (DHM).