Provenance Research Project

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is committed to researching and publishing the provenance or ownership history of its collection. Research accomplished to date is made available online, and updated as completed.

In recognition of the systematic, widespread looting of the Nazi regime, the provenance of works that changed hands—or possibly changed hands—in German-occupied Europe during the Nazi era is a particular focus of inquiry. In 2000, the Museum began the Provenance Research Project, the purpose of which is to determine whether any works of art in the Museum's collection could have been unlawfully appropriated in the Nazi era and not subsequently restituted to their rightful owners.

The Museum first published online the ownership history and images for all European paintings with changed ownership in continental Europe between 1933 and 1945 or whose provenance is unknown during that time.1 As more collector and dealer archives become available, the Museum continues to research the ownership history of these first-published works. As research is completed on other parts of the Museum's collection, additional artworks are added to the Provenance Research Project list. This list is also published on the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal, a central registry for U.S. museums.

In 1998, the Metropolitan Museum was a leader in the drafting and adoption of guidelines that govern the discovery of spoliated art in museum collections, with both the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums) and the Association of Art Museum Directors. The Metropolitan Museum's Collections Management Policy now incorporates these guidelines.

Should the Metropolitan Museum determine that a work in its collection was unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution, the Museum will make this information public.

If the Museum receives a claim that an artwork in the Museum's collection was unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution, the Museum will seek to resolve the matter in an equitable, appropriate, and mutually agreeable manner.

Pursuant to these guidelines, the Museum has restituted or reached settlements regarding the following works:

Also in keeping with these guidelines, the Museum is making the circumstances of the Nazi-ordered sale of the Pringsheim Collection public.

The Museum's collection includes works of art that were looted by the Nazis, and subsequently restituted to their rightful owners.

Please contact provenanceresearch@metmuseum.org with inquiries or information regarding the Provenance Research Project or Nazi-era provenance of works in the Museum's collection.

1. Complete provenance of a given work of art is often difficult if not impossible to establish. Records of sale, particularly for paintings or objects that have not changed hands for several generations, frequently do not survive. Moreover, many private collectors buy and sell works anonymously through third parties, such as dealers or auction houses, which may or may not disclose the owner's identity. Many nineteenth- and twentieth-century dealers and auction houses are no longer in business. In those cases, records are at best incompletely preserved, if not lost or destroyed. All these factors contribute to the gaps that commonly occur in a work of art's provenance. Such gaps do not signal that the work was looted or stolen, only that the complete ownership history cannot be reconstructed today.

The Museum has made a special effort to investigate the World War II–era provenance of European paintings in our collection.

See images and provenance information for relevant works of art.

Thomas J. Watson Library

Thomas J. Watson Library is the central research library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art—one of the world's most comprehensive collections of books, periodicals, auction catalogs, and online resources relating to the history of art. Open to all visitors college age and older. Search the collections.