Provenance in 19th-Century Europe

Research Practice and Concept

Project Description

The purpose of this project is to analyze provenance, as a historically contingent concept and research practice that emerged in 19th-century Europe. Recently proclaimed to be a science in its own right, few scholarly terms are as topical as provenance: the history of an object told through its chain of locations and owners. Provenance has a history of its own, however, and the project argues that, while the art market and nationalism are important, scholars representing regions with a suppressed past and present are key to understanding the rise of provenance and its research, by examining the cases of Beda Dudík (Moravia/Austria), Carl Schirren (the Baltics/Livonia/Russia), and Franz Hipler (Warmia/East Prussia), ca. 1850–1900. Due to Swedish regents’ looting in the 17th century, Dudík, Schirren, and Hipler were dependent on foreign archives and libraries when researching regional history. The project’s main sources are their publications describing this provenance research. Theoretically, provenance is understood as a process, determined through and affected by practices such as locating, classifying, and moving manuscripts, documents, and other historical sources. It became very important to regional historians, as determining provenance equaled existence. By merging regional inferiority and transnational dependencies, diverse institutional settings, and political, religious, and scholarly ambitions, these cases reveal the needs and encounters that explain provenance.

Om projektet

Project Duration



The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond)

Last modified: 2022-12-29