• Saint Lucy :: c.1473-1474
  • Artist: Francesco del Cossa, Italian
  • Repository: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
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Kress Provenance Research Project


The Kress Provenance Research Project supports museum best practices in the field of provenance research and transparency in museum collection information, as promoted by the American Alliance of Museums (formerly the American Association of Museums) and the Association of Art Museum Directors. The project advances the Samuel H. Kress Foundation’s mission to serve the field of art history as practiced in American art museums by supporting centralized provenance research on behalf of the regional and campus museums which collectively steward the Kress Collection of Old Master paintings.

The project is based at the National Gallery of Art, which has taken a leadership role in the field of provenance research, facilitated by its location in Washington, D.C., in close proximity to the United States National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, and with its own outstanding art historical research resources. The project is directed by Nancy H. Yeide, an internationally recognized expert in provenance research, co-author of the AAM Guide to Provenance Research (2001) and author of Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection (2009).  Project research was conducted by Fulvia Zaninelli, who holds an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Florence and an M.A. in Art Business from the University of Manchester/Sotheby’s Institute. Ms. Zaninelli wrote her thesis on the collection of Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878-1955); Contini was Samuel Kress’s principal dealer for many years.

the Project

The Kress Provenance Research Project builds on the scholarly foundation laid by the landmark publications devoted to European paintings in the Kress Collection written by Fern Rusk Shapley and Colin Eisler. In these volumes, part of the Complete Catalogue of the Samuel H. Kress Collection (London: Phaidon, 1964-77), all of the provenance information then available was systematically published. Since that time, research on the objects donated by Kress to museums around the country has been conducted by these regional repositories themselves. Of course, the capacity of these museums and galleries to undertake highly specialized provenance research varies significantly. And moreover, in the intervening years, significant provenance research resources have been developed, promising the discovery of new information regarding the ownership histories of Kress paintings. The current project rests on the belief that a systematic approach to provenance research will provide methodological efficiencies, economies of scale and a consistency in research standards and practices.

Another key value of an integrated, systematic provenance research plan is that individual ownership histories can be considered as part of larger networks of relationships and transactions. In some cases this wider perspective results in the uncovering of literally shared histories among Kress paintings, relationships that can be further examined in an efficient manner – for example by tracing all of the pictures that had formerly been in a particular private collection. In others instances research may reveal previously unknown relationships between and among collectors and dealers.

Initially the project surveyed and assembled extant provenance information on all Kress Collection paintings, relying on the custodians to indicate the most recent information source available. With the compiled provenance information residing in a single database, preliminary research was then conducted using resources available at the National Gallery of Art and in online databases and archives. The project then conducted in-depth research in national and international archival, museum, and library resources, and the final results were published between May 2013 and October 2016.

Reading the Provenance Text

The provenance for a work of art in the Kress Collection is listed in chronological order, beginning with the earliest known owner. Life dates, if known, are enclosed in brackets. The names of dealers, auction houses, or agents are enclosed in parentheses to distinguish them from private owners. Relationships between owners and methods of transactions are indicated by punctuation: a semicolon is used to indicate that the work passed directly between two owners, and a period is used to separate two owners if a direct transfer did not occur or is not known to have occurred. Footnotes are used to document or clarify information.

Research Results

Research results are available for all of the Kress Collection repositories at this time, viewable on the collection pages. You may also view and download a cumulative index of prior owners, dealers and agents of works in the Kress Collection.

Download Icon Kress Provenance Index (Excel) view/download

Download Icon Kress Provenance Index (DOC) view/download

Download Icon Kress Provenance Index (PDF) view/download

Case Studies

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