Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 4

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.
Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

With The Marriage Trap as an example, we have seen that it is an immense task to do provenance research for all paintings that were probably in Europe from 1933 through 1945! Museums, however, have accepted this ongoing project as an important part of the stewardship of their collections.

In this particular instance, at least we know that our painting was processed through the appropriate channels after World War II. It was returned to Austria for restitution to its owner; we do not know who ended up with the painting. All we can do is be transparent about the provenance and hope more information comes to light in the future.

So, now that we’re done as much as we can about the provenance with the resources easily available to us, all of the documentation goes into the file for the object.  Then, it’s time to write up the information for our collection database.  Like most museums, the Milwaukee Art Museum uses a database for keeping track of all things related to the collection.  We use one called The Museum System, or TMS, You can see a screen shot of it at the bottom of this post.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 3

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.
Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

In the last two posts we’ve looked at the earliest known and most recent provenance of our painting The Marriage Trap.

We also know that in 1947 the painting was processed at the Munich Central Collecting Point, or MCCP.

This means that the painting was looted by the Nazis during World War II.

The MCCP was one of the offices set up by the Allied forces at the end of World War II to process the repositories of Nazi-confiscated works of art. These stashes were hidden in Germany and Austria. Managed by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Service (MFA&A) of the military, they were staffed by soldiers and art historians that became known as the Monuments Men. Collecting points were also set up in Marburg, Wiesbaden, and Offenbach. The one in Munich, however, was the largest. The offices there handled a wide variety of material such as painting, sculpture, textiles, and metalwork.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 2

This post is part of a series that that will highlight some of the interesting provenance cases in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Collection. 

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.
Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Last time we looked at The Marriage Trap’s provenance and attribution just before and since its acquisition by the Milwaukee Art Museum. That’s usually the easiest part.

In this post, we’ll see how piecing together the ownership of a painting requires pulling information from a number of sources, thinking critically about what we find, and then sometimes making an educated guess (noted as such, of course).

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 1

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.
Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676) was probably a student of the famous Dutch Golden Age artist Rembrandt (Dutch, 1606–1669). Just like his contemporaries, Victors created works with various popular subjects, including religious scenes, portraits, and genre paintings.

The Milwaukee Art Museum has a market scene in its collection which falls into this last category. The Marriage Trap is set along the familiar canals of Holland. A peasant wedding party is purchasing a fish for the ensuing celebration.

But the Dutch loved layering painting with many layers of symbolism–often for a humorous result.  Victor’s ability in combining realism with humor is illustrated by the context and placement of the fish.  It is most likely intended as a sexual metaphor!

Recently, The Marriage Trap was on our list for submission to the Art Loss Register. A quick look at the thick object file—where we keep records and correspondence related to one artwork—showed me that there was some untangling to do! So, I carefully read through everything, looked for more resources, and double checked it all before organizing it in a clearly stated entry for our collection database.

Categories
Art Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—Nazi-era Germany

This post is the second to introduce a series that that will highlight some of the interesting provenance cases in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Collection. 

Adolf HItler presents Hermann Goering with The Falconer, 1880, by 19th century Austrian painter Hans Makart. Library of Congress.
Adolf HItler presents Hermann Goering with The Falconer, 1880, by 19th century Austrian painter Hans Makart. Library of Congress.

To fully understand how important provenance research is for museums, we will need to look more at the period of art looting that is most familiar to many: the Nazi period in Germany.