Working group Italy of the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. – New initiative for provenance research on cultural property in Italy

by AG Italien

In April 2023, the working group Italy was founded within the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. with the aim of promoting provenance research on cultural assets illegally acquired, looted or translocated foremost during the Nazi-Fascist and colonial era in Italy.

Provenance research aims to reconstruct the origin and ownership passages of cultural assets across different epochs and contexts. Many international museums now systematically carry out provenance research to ensure the legitimacy and transparency of their collections and their acquisition policies, i.e., to avoid acquiring assets deriving from confiscation, forced sales, or illicit exportation under conditions of war or racial persecution. In Italy, conversely, provenance research has found little application in either museums, universities, or in the art market. To this day, Italian museums and art galleries still provide little or no information on the provenance of their collections, despite the numerous international agreements ratified by the Italian government, from the Washington Conference of 1998 to the recent Best Practices for the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, published on 5 March 2024. The working group hopes that its initiatives will contribute to enforce a programmatic change in Italy’s future policies and practices on this matter.

The working group is intended as a central forum for Italian-specific provenance research and as an international network to promote exchange of knowledge and to establish both scientific and institutional collaborations (e.g., through workshops, conferences, seminars and publications), particularly between Italy and Germany. Our aim is to foster provenance research in Italy by supporting the activities of related professional groups, such as universities, museums, art galleries, legal advisors, archives and libraries.

On 25 September 2023, the working group organized its kick-off workshop at the Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venedig. The workshop gathered around 25 scholars and students from German and Italian archives, libraries, museums and universities, who offered insights into their current research projects and discussed the status quo of provenance research in Italy. The workshop participants presented a wide range of case-studies on the translocation of cultural assets from the 15th to the 20th century, with particular attention to Italian colonialism, the unification and post-unification periods as well as the Nazi-Fascist era. The discussion – involving different fields such as museology, history of collecting and art market studies – revealed potential synergies in research methods and archival resources. The workshop contributions will be published in spring 2025 in a special issue of the Zibaldone – Zeitschrift für italienische Kultur der Gegenwart dedicated entirely to the topic of provenance research in Italy.

Within this framework, the working group is currently organizing its second in-presence workshop to be held in Rome on 26-27 September 2024 in collaboration with the Biblioteca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History. The workshop will focus on the identification of sources and methods for archival research, i.e., fundamental tools of provenance research, which are also at the core of historical enquiry and human sciences. Based on the general overview provided by the kick-off workshop, the conference will elaborate on the question as to the quo vadis, namely, the future and objectives of provenance research in Italy, both in terms of its possible scientific developments and with regard to concrete approaches for provenance researchers in Italy.

The working group is currently implementing its outreach and communication activities by creating an introductory seminar on provenance research for university students, the first of which was successfully held last 22 March at the Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice. Moreover, the group organizes a bi-monthly online lecture series, where both established and young international researchers discuss their projects concerning provenance research in Italy. The next event of the working group will take place on 10 May 2024 at 5 pm at the Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venedig (in presence and online). Bianca Gaudenzi (German Historical Institute, Rome) and Christian Fuhrmeister (Central Institute of Art History, Munich) will give a joint lecture titled “The ‘return of beauty’? New perspectives on the restitution of cultural assets looted during the Fascist era”.

We look forward to suggestions, enquiries, and contributions from the scientific community. Please contact us at: Further information and news about our current and upcoming activities are available on our LinkedIn page:

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retour (2024, 10. April). Working group Italy of the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. – New initiative for provenance research on cultural property in Italy. RETOUR. Abgerufen am 25. Mai 2024, von

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