Provenance research

At the Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, which took place in December 1998 in Washington DC, 44 countries signed up to 11 core principles, which aim to assist in resolving issues relating to Nazi-confiscated art.

Washington Principles


Since then public museums, libraries and archives, in particular in Germany, have seen it as their duty to examine their collections and identify cultural property possibly lost as a result of persecution under the Nazi dictatorship. The Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe actively strives to fulfill this obligation. The art historian Tessa Rosebrock has been responsible for provenance research of works in our collection since April 2010. This specialist post is being funded for a period of three years by the Bureau for Provenance Investigation & Research in Berlin.

Bureau for Provenance Investigation & Research


Provenance research is the exact investigation into the artworks’ origin and history of ownership before they were brought to the museum. The chief aim is to compile an unbroken chain of documented ownership. Under special scrutiny are additions to the collection of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe that occurred in the years from 1933 to 1945. The principle focus of attention is on paintings that were acquired during the Second World War from the Generalverwaltung der oberrheinischen Museen, or ‘general administration of Upper Rhenish museums’.

Through the intense study of the objects and the systematic assessment of source material in both our own archives and those of other institutions, we trace the channels through which the work left the artist’s studio, whether it was placed for sale on the art market, the conditions surrounding its sale, and who its previous owners were.

Our aim is to fill in any gaps in the provenance established to date and to uncover any possible illegitimate changes of ownership. The findings of our research work are then carried over to the Kunsthalle’s own catalogues, of which two are due for publication in the near future. The findings are also included in the IMDAS object database.