CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Provenance: A Forensic History of Art

Exhibition: 13 May 2017 - 1 June 2019

This exhibition draws from recent research into the World War II-era provenance of the Trees collection at Krannert Art Museum to examine the history of ownership through six paintings.

Exploring themes such as genealogy, documentation, attribution, and the perplexing problem of identifying unfamiliar collectors’ marks, Provenance: A Forensic History of Art displaces the prevalent conception of forensic inquiry as a tool for crime scene investigation and relocates it from the laboratory to the art collection. Etymologically, forensics relate to courts of law: a “forensic” investigation denotes the methodical examination and compilation of evidence for a court or other public forum. Likewise, provenance research is a forensic method employed to reconstruct legal chains of ownership that establish an artwork’s whereabouts from the moment of creation to its present circumstances.

The exhibition is curated by Nancy Karrels, doctoral student in Art History, and based on research supervised by Maureen Warren, curator of European and American Art

Works included in the exhibition are 15th–19th century paintings by Moretta da Brescia (attributed), Ambrosius Holbein (attributed), Master of the St. Ursula Legend, Bartholomé Esteban Murillo, Theodule Ribot, and George Romney (after).

Master of the Saint Ursula Legend (act. ca. 1470–90), Madonna and Child with Four Saints, ca. 1465–70
Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign