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  • Michael Jaffé


Term used for the record of ownership of movable works of art. A complete provenance provides an accurate account of the locations of a work of art from the time and place of its manufacture to the present. The nearer such a pedigree approaches this all too seldom state (due to the vicissitudes of chronicling a rarity), the more secure the attribution of the work is likely to be. To elicit plausible provenances from often confusing data, or lack of data, is a necessary part of the complex history and psychology of collecting and cataloguing art works. Not unusually, it is hampered either by over-ambitious, careless or false claims or by the complete suppression of provenance information, as is often the case with illegally excavated artefacts and smuggled works of art. On occasion, historically quite consistent provenances, not merely fanciful ones, become attached to copies made after the originals have changed addresses or even disappeared from view; for example in ...

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