Provenance Research


Provenance is an integral part of a Museum’s operation. Traditionally provenance helps establish two things.   It allows a Museum to trace the history of the ownership of an object back through time.  Ideally this proves a complete and clear history of ownership – in other words the work has not been stolen or a forgery.  But also, and importantly, it allows the art historian to prove that a piece of art existed in a given period and can thereby be associated with a given artist or a given school.


In 2003 / 2004 claims were made against the provenance of the collection of The Hunt Museums Trust.  The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Paris, claimed that John and Gertrude Hunt acquired a range of items by inapposite means.   There followed a period of intense research with claims and counter claims supporting and / or rebutting various arguments. No item in the collection of the Trust has been identified as originating in dubious circumstances.   The Museum was among the first in Ireland to illustrate all of its collection on the web to facilitate research and to show openness to any group or individual who had concerns about a given object.



(Virginia Teehan – former Director: The Hunt Museum – 2010 Report)


The Hunt Museum Provenance Research Project has made important progress and significant achievements, within the context of available resources, in realising the objectives set down by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in pursing the recommendations made in the Nicholas Report. There is a requirement for additional resources to be made available in order for this vital research, which is central to professional best practice, to be continued.


Given that the Museum has completed the recommendations outlined in the Nicholas Report, it is recommended that, in line with professional best practice, the Board of the Hunt Museum devises a Provenance Research Strategy which establishes clear direction, objectives and priorities for future work as well as a detailed Resource Plan.


It is recommended that select items from the Hunt Collection are referred to the Art Loss Register (ALR) for checking against their databases. The ALR has one of the world’s largest private databases of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectables. It is used by museums internationally as well as legal firms and private individuals to clarify ownership histories of objects. This process should be one of the next steps in evaluating the priorities for future work.


The Hunt Museum, as part of the research, considered researching auction house records as a high priority. The Hunt Museum submitted enquiries on vendors and purchasers to both Christie’s and Sotheby’s on items purchased at their auction houses. Confirmation was received from both Sotheby’s and Christie’s that there do not appear to be any suspicious names or problematic circumstances with any of the items in question. It is recommended that research results obtained from the auction houses, regarding the ownership history of objects bought by John and Gertrude Hunt are promptly published on the relevant pages of the Hunt Museum website, with confirmation from Christie’s and Sotheby’s. This research should be shared with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and placed in the public domain as an immediate action.

It is recommended that the information provided by the Hunt Museum to Glasgow Museums and Galleries be updated on the UK Cultural Property Advice website. By publishing the information, these results can then be shared with international databases for research, and with heirs searching for their potentially lost collections.


It is recommended that the auction houses (all are listed on the relevant Provenance Research pages on the Hunt Museum website) from which John and Gertrude Hunt are known to have purchased objects are contacted as continuing research and that support is sought from them in order to provide further ownership history. It is recommended that the results of this research are published on the relevant pages of the Hunt Museum website and that the next stage of research for items purchased from European and US auction houses are pursued.


It is recommended that the archival collections of state bodies continue to be reviewed for relevant holdings.  Such agencies include: The National Museum of Ireland, The National Gallery of Ireland, The Arts Council of Ireland, Shannon Heritage Ltd. It is also recommended that the Office of Public Works is contacted directly to ascertain if access may be arranged to their archival collections. It is recommended that the research results from this work are appropriately published.

It is recommended that the Hunt Museum Provenance Research Project informs the international provenance research community if any archives relevant to Alexander von Frey become known.  The discovery of extant archival material relating to von Frey continues to be of high priority for the Hunt Museum.


It is strongly recommended that the Hunt Museum Provenance Research Project continues to pursue research, as detailed in Section 3, of this report as a continuing part of provenance research at the Hunt Museum.

It is recommended that the research and results received should be shared and communicated with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the international research community in order to assist any potential claimant families in the search for their art losses.


The Hunt Controversy: A Shadow Report was published in December 2008. It is recommended that The Hunt Controversy: A Shadow Report, in the first instance, continue to be comprehensively evaluated for all references that are germane to the Hunt Collection as managed by the Hunt Museum Ltd. It is further recommended that allegations contained in this report about the origins and ownership history of the Hunt Collection continue to be researched.  It is recommended that the review of The Hunt Controversy: A Shadow Report, once research is complete and the information is compiled, be published and placed on the public record.


The Board  of the Hunt Museum Ltd. considered the above  ‘Recommendations’ and agreed that they should be progressively implemented as resources become available.



International Provenance Research Training Workshop

In summer 2012 the director of the Hunt Museum, Dr Hugh Maguire, attended the first International Provenance Research Training Workshop.    Attendance was generously supported by the International Claims Conference and the European Shoah Legacy Institute. The week-long programme was attended by representatives from a range of institutions internationally including The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Students, and budding researchers, attended from a range of academic institutions – primarily from the USA.




The principal instructors for the workshops were Marc Masurovsky, Willi Korte and Agnes Peresztegi. A range of invited outside experts addressed the group in the course of the week including Thierry Bajou of the Ministry for Culture and Communications, France; Mary-Kate Cleary of the Art Loss Registry and Jane Milosch of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC.

The workshop was hosted by the Koordinerungsstelle Magdeburg, Germany.   The Koordinerungsstelle has the task to document search requests and lost and found reports on cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution and on cultural property looted during and after the Second World War (1939-45).   The Koordinerungsstelle aims to establish transparency both on a national and international level and provides advisory support to institutions and individuals in Germany and abroad.

For further information see:

For futher information consult

ICOM Deutschland – Beiträge zue Museolgie. Band 3:  Die Ethik des Sammelns (ICOM Deutschland 2011).  ISBN: 978-3-00-034461-9