The database contains almost 5,000 objects purchased by the Belvedere since 1938 and created before 1938. By definition, works acquired before 1938 or created after 1938 are not subject to provenance research in the meaning of the Art Restitution Law.
The database, which also contains sensitive data, is for internal provenance research and is not therefore open to the public.
Works of art are categorized as ‘uncritical,’ ‘questionable,’ or ‘unresolved.’
‘Uncritical’ means that the provenance can be clearly identified. Even if the work was confiscated from Jewish owners between 1938 and 1945, it was returned to its original owners after the war or acquired in regular fashion by the Belvedere.
‘Questionable’ items are those acquired by the Österreichische Galerie under circumstances described in section 1 of the Art Restitution Law. This section refers to works of art that
1. had been restituted to their original owners or legal heirs but could not be exported because of the 1919 Export Prohibition Law and subsequently became the property of the state legally,
2. had been the object of a transaction deemed invalid according to the Nichtigkeitsgesetz of 1946
3. had not been returned to their original owners or their legal heirs after conclusion of restitution proceedings and were thus still held by the state as “property without heirs”.
‘Unresolved’ means that insufficient information is currently available to determine the provenance of the work, and that it is not possible from the available indications to classify the work as either ‘uncritical’ or ‘questionable.’ This applies in particular to acquisitions from the art market both in the period from 1938 to 1945 and after the war.
‘Probably uncritical’ refers to works of art that can be plausibly assumed to have been legally acquired and that are not from confiscated Jewish estates, even if this cannot be determined with complete certainty.
During the research it proved useful to introduce this intermediate category as well as the category ‘suspicious.’
‘Suspicious’ refers to acquisitions for which there is some evidence that they were from confiscated assets, without the possibility of determining the provenance definitively.
Research continues on works that fall into these categories. The research is considered complete only when the works have been definitively classified as uncritical or, in the case of questionable items, a provenance dossier has been created and dealt with by the Committee.
As of April 2013, some 2,386 of the paintings and sculptures investigated by the provenance research department have been deemed uncritical, 23 as suspicious and 251 as probably uncritical. There are still 33 questionable works in the Belvedere inventory, for the most parts objects that will be restituted as soon as the rightful heir has been identified, and also objects for which dossiers have been drawn up but not yet submitted to the Art Restitution Committee. There are 494 paintings and sculptures whose provenance has yet to be resolved. Intensive research is currently being carried out on these objects.
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Mag. Katinka Gratzer-Baumgärtner