ProvEnhance Enhancing the provenance data of the collections of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB) since 1933. Scientific study, digital valorization and narrative in context

2023 > 2027

Coordinators : Aude Alexandre and Ingrid Goddeeris (RMFAB)

Researchers : Fenya Almstadt (MRBAB/ ULB/TU Berlin), Elea De Winter (ULB), Alexandre Leroux (MRBAB)


Partners: Prof. Kim Oosterlinck and Prof. Anne-Sophie Radermecker (ULB), Prof. Meike Hopp and Dr. Mattes Lammert (TU Berlin), Dr. Dirk Luyten and Dr. Nico Wouters (State Archive / CegeSoma) 

Scientific Committee: Sandra van Ginhoven (Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles), Christian Huemer (Belvedere, Vienna), Lynn Rother (Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg), Laurence Schram (Kazerne Dossin, Mechelen), Chris Stolwijk (Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis, The Hague), Juliette Trey (Institut national d'histoire de l'art, Paris), Cathérine Verleysen (Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent). 

The aim of the project ProvEnhance is to lay a global scientific and methodological frame for provenance research in Belgium for artworks acquired around WWII. As a real case-study, it will investigate and enrich the provenance data of artworks entered in the collections of the RMFAB from 1933 onwards, concentrating on the pre-, war and postwar periods. 


Since the 1990s, the study of the provenance of works of art has become increasingly important in Europe and the Western world. Following the Washington, Vilnius Forum and Terezin Declarations, Belgium studied some twenty years ago the issue of restitution of property looted from Jews during the Second World War, using the then available archival sources (see the reports of the Buysse Commission).

However, twenty years later, the international provenance research and societal landscapes have evolved. Among others, new sources and databases have come to lightand there is an increasing awareness of the mechanisms of loot, which no longer exclusively includes forcibly confiscated or plundered art. The topic also requires great transparency and societal debates are expected.   

The research will make use of all available sources (private and museum archives, sales catalogues, specialised press, war / postwar archives in Belgium and abroad, specialised databases, etc.) and applicable methods from the field of Digital Humanities (linked data, network analysis, etc.) to enrich the provenance data of the RMFAB collections and provide the necessary context through the study of the actors and practices of the art market and museum institutions in Belgium during the period of the Occupation.

The objective is also to address the challenges of transparency and societal participation, publishing the research results as structured datasets for the national and international research community, but also making them visible for the broader public (through e.g.guided tours, public history website).

A methodological part is also expected to benefit to other cultural heritage institutions in Belgium. The project will rely on the expertise of a strong international scholarly community, through the partners in Belgium and Berlin, but also through existing professional networks in provenance and art market research.