Provenance and de-provenancing artefacts

I write this blog deliberately in English, enabling everone around the world reading it, as English is a common language. Im am (very) sure I’m not making myself popular raising the subject, but it has to be dome (again) and I will explain why.

Sometimes, as a collector, in this case of genuine artefacts from the Viking Age, one encounters the most beautiful objects on the net, for sale.

Viking voorwerp

In this case, on https://www.liveauctioneers.com/ an incredible artefact of the Viking Age is for sale. As to all my knowledge, the artefact looks genuine and could be described as one of the crown jewels of the Viking Age. The type of beads, expression on the masks and the way the Thor hammers adornment is punched does direct it to being genuine. (Eastern) Scandinavian? Rus viking style? One – or both.

100% sure? Well, that is part of the problem as I now turn to the provenance of artefacts for sale.

The provenance given by this piece of art is:

Property of a European collector, previously acquired from a collection of Mr. Ø. T. in Denmark in 2016.

Now, this is sounding very “Timelinish” and if I was a very rich man ánd true collector, I would want to know more than this. If it was in a prior Danish collection of “Mr. Ø. T. ” I would want to know his full name, if he is still alive and I wanted to contact him if so. Was the Danish collector the first one who had this in his collection, or is its history going back even further? Who, on earth! – did found such an marvelous, seemingly complete, crown jewel of Viking Art and WHERE and WHEN? When asked by a collector, are auction houses providing this, very needed, information? Too often, they don’t, “protecting the seller’s identity”. The de-provenancing comes to a definite point.

In the past – accidentally – findings or excavations weren’t very well recorded at all. But a collector has to bee able to get to know the provenance to its max at any time. Righteous so, enabling to keep the provenance alive and conservated for the future. Now, worrying I find is, that when I ask around by other collectors, a sufggestion sounds through that often provenances are known, but items are de-provenanced, enabling sellers/ auction houses to auction the item without problems. If one really doesn’t know, it is sad. But too often, items are being sold where the provenance is known of and stowed away, for selling sake.

Now, I have bought a few items in the past wich provenance was unknown. But I have learned one thing from them: since then I am always very keen on getting to know where an object comes from. We can never be sure for 100% but we have to ake an effort of 500% to get to know, regardless what. Collectors are only temporarely holders of these – sometimes unique – items. We are obliged not only to conservate them. We are obliged to conservate their history and provenance also. To the max.

History deserves it.

Gepubliceerd door Thomas Kamphuis

Gepassioneerd Vikingtijd, natuur en cultuur liefhebber.

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