Systematic provenance research into the paintings collection (up to 1900)

Funding area:
Nazi-looted cultural property
Funding recipient:
Deutsches Historisches Museum
Federal state:
Contact person:
Dr. Brigitte Reineke

PositionLeitung Zentrale Dokumentation und Beauftragte für Provenienzforschung

Tel.+49 (0) 30 203 04 406

Dr. Heike Krokowski

Position Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin für Provenienzforschung

Tel.+49 (0) 30 203 04 334

Type of project:
long-term project

This project involved systematic research into the collection of paintings created before 1900 that were acquired after the founding of the Deutsches Historisches Museums (DHM) in 1987, primarily from art dealers and auctions. According to the funding proposal, there were some 430 works in total.

The backs of almost all these artworks, in addition to a further group of 50 objects compiled through reassessment of individual acquisition groups, were examined. Discoveries from and photographs taken of the backs of 483 paintings have been entered into the collection database where they are available to all employees. The in-house archive was examined for records on acquisitions from 1987 onwards, available material was assigned to individual objects, and the details were documented in the collection database along with the content of 455 of the museums painting/object files. This documentation will simplify further research on individual objects in the future and provide a preliminary structure. To gather further information about the individual acquisitions, action was takenwhere information existedto examine auction catalogs and lot entries for provenance details and, if available, document these as well.

For at least a third of the works looked at following this procedure, basic examinations were undertaken in the form of database inquiries, often supplemented by literature searches and museum inquiries. As a result of examining these 170 paintings, it should be noted that for 60% there is no indication of confiscation as a result of persecution; for 30.5% there are only odd research approaches that do not lead to a direct suspicion of confiscation as a result of persecution; and for 6% of the objects checked, there were suspicions of possible confiscation as a result of persecution. Research is being pursued as a matter of urgency for these objects. Five paintings (3%) have been classified as lawful acquisitions.

A great deal of time has also been invested into in-depth research in literature, libraries and archives regarding particular suspicions in relation to two individual objects and a set of five paintings. As the result of this intensive research, one work could be classified as a lawful acquisition, while one was suspected of having been acquired as a result of persecution and was registered in the Lost Art Database. For the set of five paintings, which originate from the inventory of the Linz collection, further research is urgently required.

(c) Stiftung Deutsches Historisches Museum