Nov 25, 2022

Art Provenance Texts as Data: Restitution Histories in Auction Catalogs

Adolph Menzel, restituted to the heirs of Walter Westfeld

When Nazi-looted artworks are restituted, families are often obliged to sell at least some of the artworks. For this they turn to auction houses. As a result, the provenances published by auction houses may provide valuable insights into the art market networks that handled the looted art until the time of restitution

Below is a selection of several provenances published online by Sotheby's. Some of the provenance texts indicate that artworks put up for auction had previously been restituted to the families of persecuted collectors. 

For the artworks that have been restituted, the provenances - before the restitution - offer clues to how the resale market for Nazi-looted art worked. Through which hands did the artworks pass? Do any names recur? 

Nov 24, 2022

Open Art Data is on Mastodon

Now on Mastodon!

Decentralized, more thoughtful, fewer trolls, more space to write. 



Example of "Toots" on Mastodon

I'm wondering about the of and the different versions that are told over time by different people in different places.

My own focus is the stories that are told about the of , called .

But when I look at this of from Peter T Fretwell, I'm inspired about possibilities for alternative histories of artworks (of which only one is true, the others false)


The function on is brilliant.

Can switch from of Benin Kingdom to the in possession today.
Then down for details and , with

Wonderful .

Could one go further and show ? 

Nov 17, 2022

DATASET: E. & A. Silberman Galleries and American museums

E. & A. Silberman Galleries was an art dealership owned by Abris and Elkin Silberman.  This dataset includes artworks in American museums that mention Silberman in the ownership history.


See details below:

Nov 14, 2022

Wolfgang Gurlitt's Nazi looted art

 View of Krumau, 1916, by Egon Schiele December 2002

The Austrian city of Linz agreed to return a landscape by Egon Schiele to the heirs of the pre-war owner, Daisy Hellman. The Gestapo seized the picture after Ms. Hellman left Austria following the Anschluss. A German collector named Wolfgang Gurlitt bought the picture at auction in 1942 and sold it, along with the rest of his collection, to the city of Linz in 1953.

Lesser Ury, The Seamstress (Die Naeherin), Oil on canvas, 52.1 x 41.9 cm
 (Holocaust Claims Processing Office, The Louis Löwenthal Collection)öwenthal_collection

"The Seamstress" by Lesser Ury, owned by the German Jewish art collector Louis Loewenthal, was confiscated by the Nazis in 1939-40 and acquired by Wolfgang Gurlitt.

"A pro-Nazi dealer falsely claimed years later that "The Seamstress had been destroyed in an Allied air raid. After the war, he sold it to the municipal museum in Linz, Austria.

The Times-Tribune, 13 July 1999

Jean Baer, a Jewish art collector in Berlin, owned this painting by Lovis Corinth, entitled "Matrose (Sailor"). His widow, Ida Baer was deported to Theresienstadt in August 1942.  Wolfgang Gurlitt got hold of their painting somehow and donated it to the Lentos museum in 1953.

It was restituted to the Baer heirs in 2015.

Provenance published by Sothebys in 2015

R. Brackl, Munich

Fritz Dägling, Königsberg

Heinrich Thannhauser, Munich (1859-1935, founder of Moderne Galerie Thannhauser in 1909 and proponent of avant-garde art, notably Kandinsky, Klee and Franz Marc) 

Jean Baer, Berlin

Wolfgang Gurlitt, Munich (1888-1965, gallerist, art dealer and collector)

Neue Galerie / Lentos Museum, Linz (purchased from the above in 1953)

Restituted to the heirs of Jean and Ida Baer in 2015


for more about Wolfgang Gurlitt, see:

An Austrian museum is coming to terms with the tainted legacy of its first director and founding collector, Wolfgang Gurlitt, a dealer in Nazi-looted art

Austrian exhibition to reveal story of Wolfgang Gurlitt, art dealer for the Nazis turned museum director 

by Catherine Hickley, The Art Newspaper 13 March 2019

Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz confronts the legacy of its controversial first director, cousin of Hildebrand Gurlitt

Linzer Kunstmuseum Lentos restituiert drei Kunstwerke

Gemälde von Lovis Corinth und Emil Nolde werden vor der Rückgabe werden sie noch bis 11. Jänner ausgestellt

21. November 2014, 12:55  Der Standard

(translated into English with Deepl)

Linz Art Museum Lentos restitutes three works of art

Paintings by Lovis Corinth and Emil Nolde to be exhibited until January 11 before being returned

November 21, 2014, 12:55  

Linz - The Linz Art Museum Lentos will restitute two works of art by Lovis Corinth and one by Emil Nolde. This was decided by the city council. Before they are returned, they will be exhibited for the last time until January 11. This was announced by the museum on Friday.

The three paintings are the "Maiwiese" (May Meadow) by Emil Nolde and "Othello" (The Moor) and "Schwabing" (View from the studio window) by Lovis Corinth. Provenance research revealed that the Maiwiese originally belonged to Otto Siegfried Julius, a physician living in Hamburg. Because of his Jewish origins, he was persecuted by the Nazi rulers and fled Germany in September 1938. He tried to send his art collection to Switzerland. On the way of transport, however, its trace is lost. The painting subsequently came into the possession of a Salzburg gallery owner, from whom the city of Linz acquired it in November 1953.

The two paintings by Lovis Corinth were owned by the Berlin commercial judge, merchant and art collector Jean Baer and, after his death in 1930, by his widow Ida Baer. Between 1939 and her deportation to Theresienstadt in August 1942, where she died in the same year, the woman lost control of the art collection. The further whereabouts of the artworks remain unknown, as does the time at which Wolfgang Gurlitt came into possession of them. When he sold part of his collection to the city of Linz in 1953, as part of the founding of the city's New Gallery, the two paintings were among them. Wolfgang Gurlitt is a relative of the art collector Cornelius Gurlitt, who died this May and who for months was at the center of a heated debate about looted art.

The results of this research have led to the conclusion that the works must be returned in accordance with the Austrian Art Restitution Act. All three works are therefore to be handed over to the heirs at the beginning of the coming year. Until all formalities and transport preparations have been completed, the paintings will be exhibited in a room of the current collection presentation from next Tuesday until January 11, 2015. Following research into the provenance of the Lentos collection, the City of Linz has restituted or settled a total of ten paintings since 1999. (APA, 21.11.2014)

Translated with (free version)

Oct 18, 2022

Unnecessary mysteries

Signs that provenance research has gone off the rails include:

  • extremely long texts that leave the reader so confused that he/she concludes that there is no such thing as knowledge
  • massive use of words indicating uncertainty or unknowability
  • omission of crucial information that is available and which provides important context
  • mention of names which are known to be either persecuted Jewish collectors, Red Flag dealers of Nazi looted art, or associates with forgers WITHOUT mentioning that that's who they are
  • excessive speculation
  • false information

In this series of posts, we will examine a few remarkable examples of needlessly confusing provenance texts published by major museums. 


Oct 5, 2022

If artworks could speak they would tell you what Nazis did to these art collectors

"Dr Lillie has explained the Kafkaesque system for the confiscation of goods, which usually worked like this. When a Jew applied to emigrate, in theory only 25% of his goods went to the State. An inventory was submitted and the Zentralstelle für Denkmalschutz decided which works of art were of national importance and these were “made secure”, ie; confiscated. It was rare, however, for what was left to be reunited with the owner, who had usually already fled to an unknown destination. Instead, it sat in Nazi-owned warehouses, which sold the goods to pay the “storage charges” that the owner obviously could not cover." 

A portrait, person by person, item by item, of a society wiped out

Anna Somers Cocks, 1 July 2004 The Art Newspaper, Book review of Sophie Lillie's Was Einmal War

Sophie Lillie, Was einmal war: Handbuch der enteigneten, Kunstsammlungen Wiens (Czernin Verlag, Vienna, 2003) 1,440 pp, 354 b/w ills, €69 (hb), ISBN 3707600491

"This important book gives a full documentation for the Jewish art collectors of Vienna whose goods and lives were targeted by the Nazis"

Austrian Jewish art collectors who were dispossessed by the Nazis 

 Leon and Marianne Abramowicz,

 Bernhard Altmann,

 Hans and Helene Amon,

 Otto and Clara Anninger,

 Gustav Arens,

 Fritz and Anna Unger, 

Felix and Lise Haas,

 Carl and Rosa Askonas,

 Stefan Auspitz,

 Theodor and Angela Auspitz-Artenegg,

 Elisabeth Bachofen-Echt,

 Richard and Paula Beer-Hofmann,

 Ernst and Irma Benedikt,

 Ludwig Bettelheim-Gabillon,

 Rudolf and Martha Bittmann,

 Josef and Gusti Blauhorn, 

Hugo and Malvine Blitz,

 Wilhelm and Gertrude Blitz,

 Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer,

 Victor and Alice Blum, 

Oscar Bondy (fled to Switzerland, died in NY in 1944)

 Julius and Paula Breuer, 

Otto and Lilly Brill,

 Julius and Margarethe Buchstab,

 Paul and Mary Cahn-Speyer,

 Edwin and Caroline Czeczowiczka,

 Arthur and Irma Czeczowiczka, 

Georg Duschinsky, 

Ernst and Fanny Egger, 

Lothar and Eveline Egger-Möllwald, 

Alfred and Valerie Eisler,

 Hermann and Hortense Eissler,

 Berta Morelli,

 Hans and Lucie Engel,

 Viktor and Emilie Ephrussi,Charlotte Epstein,

 Rudolf Ernst,

 Gertrud Felsöványi,

 Adele Fischel,

 Josef Freund,

 Wilhelm Freund,

 Hugo and Hilde Friedmann,

 Hermann and Elsa Gall,

 Paul and Martha Gerngross,

 Robert and Frida Gerngross,

 Emil Geyer,

 David and Lilly Goldmann,

 Philipp, Cornelia and Marie Gomperz,

 Fritz and Lilly Grünbaum,

 Karl and Stephanie Grünwald,

 Rudolf and Marianne Gutmann,

 Leo and Helene Hecht,

 Valerie Heissfeld,

 Wilhelm and Daisy Hellmann,

 Franz and Marie Louise Herzberg,

 Fritz and Gertrud Hirsch,

 Ernst and Martha Hirsch,

 Adolf and Hilda Hochstim, 

Franz Josef and Vally Honig,

 Josef Franz and Hermin Hupka,

 Bruno Jellinek,

 Otto and Fanny Kallir-Nirenstein,

 Siegfried and Irma Kantor,

 Emil and Helene Karpeles-Schenker,

 Irma Ketschendorf,

 Benedikt and Emilie Klapholz,

 Norbert and Serafine Klinger,

 Isidor and Camilla Kohn,

 Nettie Königstein,

 Felix Kornfeld

Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus

Wilhelm Viktor and Marianne Krausz,

 Hans Krüger,

 Moriz and Elsa Kuffner,

 Stephan Kuffner,

 Wilhelm and Camilla Kuffner,

 Adele Kulka,

 Wally Kulka,

 Oscar L. Ladner,

 Richard and Anna Lanyi,

 Georg and Hermine Lasus,

 August and Serena Lederer,

 Rosa Lemberger,

 Mathilde Lieben,

 Leon and Antonie Lilienfeld,

 Markus and Melanie Lindenbaum

, Fritz and Helene Löhner

, Arthur and Marianne Lourié,

 Wilhelm and Fanny Löw,

 Oscar and Irma Löwenstein,

 Alma Mahler-Werfel,

 Fritz Mandl,

 Stephan and Else Mautner,

 Edmund and Adele Mendelsohn,

 Franz Mendelsohn,

 Alice Meyszner,

 Max and Hertha Morgenstern,

 Aranka Munk,

 Oskar and Therese Neumann,

 Richard and Alice Neumann,

 Gabriele Oppenheimer,

 Ignatz and Gisela Pick,

 Moric and Irma Pick,

 Otto and Katharina Pick,

 Ernst and Gisela Pollack,

 Albert Pollak,

 Robert and Adele Pollak,

 Leopold Popper-Podhragy,

 Ernst and Ilse Popper-Podhragy, 

Arthur and Agnes Prager,

 Julius and Camilla Priester,

 Leo Prister,

 Alfred Quittner,

 Amalie Redlich,

 Anton and Marie Redlich,

 Paul and Therese Regenstreif,

 Oskar and Malvine Reichel,

 Arnim and Rosa Reichmann,

 Heinrich Reif,

 Andreas and Luise Reisinger,

 Franz and Anna Riedl,

 Heinrich and Berta Rieger, (Heinrich died in Theresienstadt camp in 1942)

Max Roden and Sascha Kronburg,

 Heinrich and Ella Rothberger,

 Moriz Rothberger,

 Alphonse and Clarice Rothschild,

 Louis Rothschild,

 Franz Rothschild,

 Franz Ruhmann,

 Emma Schiff-Suvero,

 Gustav and Louise Schoenberg,

 Ludwig and Gertrude Schüller,

 Eduard and Gisela Schweinburg,

 Arnold and Margit Löffler,

 Elkan and Abraham Silberman,

 Josef and Louise Simon,

 Marianne Singer, 

Alfred and Irmgard Sonnenfeld,

 Valentine Springer,

 Jenny Steiner,

 Klara Steiner,

 Paul and Nora Stiasny

, Georg Terramare and Erni Terrel,

 Alfons and Marie Thorsch,

 Siegfried and Antonia Trebitsch,

 Alexander and Irma Weiner,

 Leopold Weinstein

,Josefine Winter,

 Paul Wittgenstein,

 Fritz and Annie Wolff-Knize,

 Frank and Mary Wooster,

 Alexander and Luise Zemlinsky,

 Paul Zsolnay,

 Fritz and Trude Zuckerkandl

Oct 4, 2022

Philadelphia Museum of Art and the philanthropist donor Gallatin

Portrait of A. E. Gallatin, I905

A claim for restitution has been made against the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the return of "Composition with Blue" by Piet Mondrian, 1926. The artwork was seized by the Nazi authorities in 1937 and, after passing through Buchholz and Valentin, sold to the American collector Albert Eugene Gallatin, who bequeathed it to the PMA upon his death in 1952. (see below for description and provenance published by PMA on its website*)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is battling a federal action that lays claim to a 1926 painting by Dutch artist Piet Mondria under the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act. The suit, which was removed to Pennsylvania Eastern District Court on Tuesday, was filed by the Tucker Law Group and Kaye Spiegler PLLC on behalf of the trustees of the Elizabeth McManus Holtzman Irrevocable Trust. The Museum is represented by Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads; Hahn Loeser & Parks; and Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick. The case is 2:22-cv-00122, Holtzman et al v. Philadelphia Museum Of Art.

An obvious question is whether any other artworks passed through the same hands. Are there any issues or gaps in their Nazi-era provenances that require further research?

Below are some of the artworks donated by A. E. Gallatin or that passed through his hands on their journey to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For research purposes only. 

Sep 27, 2022

Williams College Museum of Art does not publish provenance but does publish Credit Line

Why does the Williams College Museum of Art still not publish provenance?

That is a question that deserves to be asked by students of art history.

While waiting for the ownership history of artwork to become available for the WCMA, we look at the Credit Lines of artworks acquired after 1933 and created before 1945.

The source of the raw data is the WCMA Github.

Sep 23, 2022

Historical Art Market Networks: interesting publications with useful information

WAR BUSINESS, CAPITAL AND ART HOUSE: The emergence of the Emil Bührle Collection in a historical context

excerpt: "Emil Bührle benefited not only from the opportunities before and during the war that resulted from the dissolution and expropriation of Jewish collections, but also from the reorganization of the international art market in the postwar period, which was partly a result of these persecutions. In fact, 9 of the 14 major galleries from which Bührle acquired most of his artworks in Zurich, London, Paris, and New York were owned by Jews who had fled Nazi Germany, Austria, or occupied Western Europe."

-  KRIEGSGESCHÄFTE, KAPITAL UND KUNSTHAUS: Die Entstehung der Sammlung Emil Bührle im historischen Kontext (excerpt translated from German with Deepl)

 I'd like to draw the attention of readers to two extremely interesting publications out of Switzerland.

  • From the seminar on social and economic history at the University of Zurich led by Professor Dr. Matthieu Leimgruber:

KRIEGSGESCHÄFTE, KAPITAL UND KUNSTHAUS: Die Entstehung der Sammlung Emil Bührle im historischen Kontext

Forschungsbericht zuhanden des Präsidialdepartements der Stadt Zürich und der Direktion der Justiz und des Innern des Kantons Zürich

Universität Zürich, Historisches Seminar Forschungsstelle für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Lehrstuhl Prof. Dr. Matthieu Leimgruber

Forschungsteam: Cécile Amstad (2017–2019), Dr. Lea Haller (2017–2018), Dr. Erich Keller (2018–2020)


(published in German) 


  • From the University of Lausanne, SNF SINERGIA research project «Local power structures»

Art, finance, and elite networks: The Presidents of the Zurich Art Society (Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft), 1890-2021

Stéphanie Ginalskia, Matthieu Leimgruberb, Juliette Montandona & Emilie Widmera

Lausanne & Zürich, May 2021


 Dynastic continuity versus «palace revolution»?......................................2 

A timeline of ZKG Presidents, 1890-2021 .................................................3 

1890-1922 – Welcome to the Heimplatz. 

Amateurs, artists, and notables in the early years of the ZKG....................4 

1922-1975 – The rise of the «financial praetorians». 

The ZKG as platform for financiers and art collectors................................4 

1975-2021– The «financial praetorians» and the consolidation of the 

Zurich cultural «Standort»...........................................................................5 

Biographical profiles...................................................................................6


(published in English)