The Getty Provenance Index® databases contain 1.5 million records that can be used for a wide variety of research purposes. The research examples below show how the data can be used.

For assistance searching the databases, and for more information about the Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance see the following:

Research Examples

Trace Ownership

The Entombment, Peter Paul Rubens, about 1612, oil on canvas.
The databases can be used to establish the provenance of a work of art:

The J. Paul Getty Museum acquired The Entombment (ca. 1612) by Peter Paul Rubens in a Christie's sale in 1992. At that time, the provenance of the painting could only be traced as far back as the mid-19th century. The number 146, located on the face of the painting, appeared to be an inventory number.

 Inventory number on The Entombment. (detail)
A search in the Provenance Index's Archival Inventories database retrieved a single record in which the artist name (Rubens) and item number (146) matched. The search lead to a 1651 inventory preserved in the Archivo de la Casa de Alba, Palacio de Liria in Madrid, which lists this Rubens painting. Possibly its first owner was Gaspar de Haro y Guzmán Carpio (1629–1687). The Provenance Index provides additional information about the collector, inventory, and related documents.

Discover Patterns and Trends

Statistical analysis of the display of painting genres
The databases can also be used to illustrate a wide variety of collecting patterns, including those related to consumer behavior, market trends, dealer networks, and modes of display.

This example analyzes patterns of display in Rome from 1550 through 1750. Nearly 300 Roman inventories comprised of 65,000 individual records were used to demonstrate whether there was a change in the distribution of painted subjects over time, in various rooms of a palace, or among different social levels of palace owners.

Network diagram of the British, French, Dutch, and Belgian auction markets
A download feature allows users to export information for use with programs such as Excel, Access, and Filemaker to generate charts and graphs. Other software tools are also available to allow visualization of large data sets.

For example, this image uses over 230,000 Provenance Index records from Belgian, British, Dutch, and French art markets to demonstrate networks in the European auction market from 1801 to 1820.

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How to Search the Databases

Before you begin your search, see what's currently covered in the databases by country, year, and type of document.

Search using original language:

You must enter search terms in the original language of the document (Dutch, English, French, German, or Spanish) to retrieve records. For example, titles or materials in French sales records must be searched in French. Exceptions to this rule are the Subject field in the Archival Inventories database and the Artist Nationality field in both the Sales Catalogs and Archival Inventories databases, which must be searched in English (also see Search by subject below).

Search by keywords:

Enter single words in the appropriate language (see Search using original language above). Indicate truncation on any word with an asterisk (*). Spaces between words are interpreted as "AND". For example, "entombment rubens" will retrieve records that contain both "entombment" and "rubens".

Search by name:

In the Artist Name, Owner Name, or Buyer/Seller field, enter a first name and/or last name in any order (e.g., Peter Paul Rubens or Peter Rubens or Rubens Peter). Do not use a comma to separate first and last name. Separate multiple names with a semicolon (;). The semicolon (;) is interpreted as the Boolean search operator "OR" so the results with have either one artist OR another or both.

To search for two artists or two owners in the same record, you can use a combination of one of the Name fields and the Keywords field. For example, to find a copy by Reinagle after Poussin, you would enter "reinagle" in the Artist Name field and "copy poussin" in the Keywords field.

Records may contain two forms of a name—the form that appears verbatim in the original document and the authority form of the name that has been assigned by the project editors. You will get more complete results by searching for the authority form of the name. For example, a search of the Sales Content for the artist "Droogsloot" will return 369 records. When you view one of these records, you will see that the authority form for this name is "Droochsloot." Repeating your search using the authority spelling "Droochsloot" will return 538 records.

Search by date:

Year, month, and day: yyyy mm dd (e.g., 1689 10 31)
Year and month: yyyy mm* (e.g., 1689 10*)
Year: yyyy* (e.g., 1689*)
Range of years: yyyy*:yyyy* (e.g., 1689*:1710*)

The Date of Sale field in Sale Descriptions will search for the first day of the sale only. For a multi-day sale, you must search the first day of the sale in order to retrieve the record. If you find a content record that was sold on a subsequent day of the sale and you would like to find the corresponding description record, you can follow the direct link to the "Sale Description" at the bottom of the record.

The Lot Sale Date field in Sale Contents will search the specific date that a lot was sold; in other words, a search for the date the sale began will not return results for lots that sold on the second day of the sale. To search an entire sale it is best to find the sale first in Sale Descriptions and then use the Catalog # (e.g., Br-2772) to search the Sale Contents.

Search by subject:

You can search by subject when searching in the Inventory Contents section of the Archival Inventories database, which uses the Iconclass system of codes and English-language headings to describe the subjects of images represented in works of art. You can also search by subject when searching in the Sale Contents section of the Sales Catalogs database; however, subject terms have only been assigned to records from 18th-century British and 20th-century German sales, so a subject search will limit your search to these sections of the database.

Search information on 20th-century artists:

The Public Collections and Goupil & Cie/Boussod, Valadon & Cie Stock Books databases contain some 20th-century material. See a quick overview of what's currently covered in the databases by country, year, and type of document.

View a full transcription of an inventory:

To view a full transcription, select the "Transcription" option on the search results page.

Download search results:

To download the full records for your search results in a spreadsheet format, click the "Download All (full records)" button on the search results page. A new window will open and provide instructions for launching the download. Note that downloads are limited to 10,000 records. You may request additional records by contacting Collecting and Provenance Research. Please keep in mind that all data is copyrighted by the J. Paul Getty Trust (see Terms of Use).

Save search results as a PDF:

To save your research results as a PDF, select the "PDF" option on the search results page.

If you receive an error message:

Please e-mail the error message, along with a description of what you did before you received it, to, and we will attempt to help you.

If you input search terms and receive the message "Your search did not retrieve any hits":

Try broadening your search criteria and view these charts to see what's currently covered in the databases by country, year, and type of document.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a collaborator?

Collaborators generally have backgrounds in paleography, art history, or romance languages. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer collaborator on the Getty Provenance Index® databases, please send an e-mail with your qualifications to

How do I evaluate the authenticity of a work of art?

We do not provide this service and recommend that you contact a qualified art appraiser or auction house.

Can you appraise a work of art I own?

We do not provide, endorse, recommend, or guarantee appraisal services. However, the Research Library does offer a guide to resources for appraisal.

Who do I contact about selling a work of art that I own?

Contact the curator of the appropriate department at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Please include a photograph and any information on the piece you may want to sell. The Museum will attempt to direct you to the appropriate dealers, museums, or auction houses for advice.

What is Iconclass?

Used by institutions around the world, Iconclass is the most widely accepted classification system for visual documents. Iconclass is used to index, catalog, and describe the subjects of images in paintings, drawings, photographs, and other works of art. Learn more.

I believe information in a record is incorrect. Who do I contact?

We encourage users to contact us at if they find information in any database that they think may be incorrect. In your e-mail, please include the record number (which appears at the top of the record) and your source for the information to be corrected.

How do I obtain a copy of a sales catalog or inventory?

Photocopies of most of the documents in the Provenance Index Databases are available at the Getty Research Institute in the Collectors Files or the Sales Catalogs Files.

Are there images of artwork in the databases?

In general, the databases do not contain images of artwork; however, the Goupil & Cie/Boussod, Valadon & Cie stock books are digitized and available for viewing online, and also within the searchable database.

How do I cite the Getty Provenance Index® databases in a publication?

Please use the following:
 Getty Provenance Index® databases. J. Paul Getty Trust

The Getty Provenance Index® is a registered trademark of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

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