Provenance Research at TMA

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A shot of the corner of a gallery space, one statue of a woman and three paintings hang on the walls

Toledo Museum of Art, Gallery 35

When considering whether or not to acquire works for the permanent collection, one of the many factors taken into consideration is the provenance of the object in question.  In examining the provenance of these potential objects, TMA is guided by our Due Diligence Guidelines which adhere to the best practice standards in our profession. Although the possession of a full provenance for each work is a goal to be striven for by all institutions and collectors, it is also unfortunately true that obtaining this for some objects is rare (particularly the farther back into history you delve).

It is important to realize that gaps in the provenance do not imply that any work was stolen or illicitly acquired; it only means that ownership is uncertain for that period. It is just the nature of this kind of research that gaps will inevitably occur. Records and documentation could have been lost (in all manner of ways) throughout time; archives, auction houses and galleries may not be around anymore; transactions could have been made without any records; or private collectors may not keep records and may also prefer anonymity when buying and selling works. Beyond missing records, there are also instances where a complete provenance just may not be necessary or possible due to the type of work being discussed, such as a print which was one of multiples, or an object which was sold commercially. Therefore, not possessing a complete provenance for an object is not necessarily an indication of a negative or nefarious past, but rather there are legitimate, and often commonplace, circumstances under which an object may have an incomplete history.

Regardless of the difficulties inherent in establishing this record, the Toledo Museum of Art is committed to creating and verifying provenance reports that are as accurate and complete as possible for all the works in its collection.

This page contains artworks that either have provenance information which may be incomplete in some areas of the object’s history, or the Museum would simply like to uncover more in an effort to create as detailed and accurate a report as possible. As research continues on these objects and their past, the site will be updated to reflect any new findings, but the Museum also hopes to use this as an opportunity to solicit any information about these works from the public.

In order to ensure transparency and to seek out information as thoroughly as possible, the Museum will post newly accessioned objects as well as selected works from the permanent collection that require more research or have potential gaps in their provenance here. If you have any questions, or possibly any information to share, you may direct your message to:

The Toledo Museum of Art
Box 1013
Toledo, Ohio 43697