Antiquity documentation and research

Provenance research

In recent years museums around the world have come under pressure to return many of their antiquities to their countries of origin. Several countries have occasionally employed aggressive tactics to force the object’s return. Several high profile museums, such as Los Angeles’ Getty Museum, have had to return items from their collections. This can happen regardless of a claim’s legitimacy. For these reasons it is becoming increasingly important for private collectors and for dealers in antiquities to have an item’s provenance as securely documented as possible.

This applies mostly to the finest and rarest of antiquities because they are at greater risk of being targeted.

An antiquity’s provenance is simply its history in the modern era, beginning from when it was removed from its place of origin and continuing to the present. The early details will include information on when it was found, who found it, and the circumstances of the discovery and removal. Subsequent details then describe the means by which the antiquity arrived at its current location: who acquired it, by what means, and how it was passed down to its present owner.

If it is not possible to trace an item back to its discovery and demonstrate that it was legally removed from its place of origin, then provenance research must demonstrate that the object’s history of acquirement predates legislation controlling the antiquities trade. At Antiquities Experts, we perform all necessary provenance research and reconstruction for our clients, ensuring that their objects are compliant with international laws and safe for purchase, sale, import, and export.

Documentation

In addition to provenance research and reconstruction, we assist owners of antiquities with all the requisite documentation. We work closely with clients to help them demonstrate that their family- or privately-owned pieces were acquired before existing laws on cultural patrimony. It is often not enough to know that an object has been in a collection since long before current legislation, or that it was acquired through legal means. For many cases this must be established via official documentation. When clients need such assistance we gladly help in the preparation of any and all legal documentation related to the owning, selling, and buying of antiquities.

Research

Ultimately, provenance and documentation work is rooted in thorough and responsible research. Our team members, with expertise across a range of time periods and geographic regions, have been performing this work for years. We have been called upon for antiquities inquiries that must be done confidentially or independently.

Because of our unique experience and broad expertise, collectors, private dealers, galleries, institutions and insurance adjusters know and trust us for our services. We assist all interested parties in our work with antiquities research.

If you have an item you would like researched, if you are facing a possible legal claim, or if you are considering a purchase, we are ready to provide you with our services. The work we perform covers all aspects of provenance research and documentation. To begin your investigations or to learn more, please contact us for additional information. We look forward to helping you with all your research needs.