Provenance Research in Finnish Museums

Amedeo Modigliani: Portrait of the Artist Leopold Survage, 1918. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: CAA / Hannu Aaltonen.
Provenance: Léopold Survage; art dealer Léopold Zborowski, Paris; Mrs Eyraud, Paris; Roger Dutilleul collection; purchase 1955, Galerie Beyeler, Basel, mediator Salme Sarajas-Korte, with special state grant.

Information pertaining to provenance and context, i.e. information about previous owners and about the use of artefacts, contributes to the museum value of an object or a work of art in the highest degree. The better these are known, the more the object tells us about its times and itself and the more versatile its use in exhibitions, publications and research. Provenance research is an inherent part of museum work. Especially the provenance of the oldest objects in the collections can pose problems, as the information is not necessarily always complete.

At the moment, changes in the ownership of works of art during the period between the World Wars are very much in focus. Several Finnish museums own works of art acquired in Europe whose provenance requires lengthy and in-depth research. This is often difficult because the necessary archive sources are abroad. To facilitate this work, it is in the interest of the museums to make public those works of art on whose provenance other researchers may be able to shed light.

The collections of the following museums contain works of art that have lacunae in their provenance between 1933 and 1945. This does not necessarily mean, however, that a work is stolen. You can find the links to the museums´ collections on the right side of this page.

Ateneum Art Museum

Ateneum Art Museum chiefly collects Finnish art. Acquisitions to the international collection have been sporadic and dependent on resources. Thus there are few works in the collections of the Ateneum Art Museum that have lacunae in their provenance.

Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Sinebrychoff Art Museum, with its focus on European old masters, has a much larger problem in terms of research because of the volume and scope of their collections. At this stage, works that have been acquired at auction over the past decades have been excluded from the list, since they have been publicly exhibited before the auctions.

The National Museum of Finland

The National Museum of Finland focuses on Finnish cultural history. The works of old masters in the museum´s collections mainly come from three private collectors through bequests. A random selection of archival material pertaining to the purchase of some of the works, kept by the collectors themselves, has been preserved.