May 10th, 2019: The Accession Books of the Bavarian State Painting Collections

What are accession books?

Accession books provide information about the size of the collection. They are usually created when a collecting institution is first established and are henceforth updated continuously. It is only since digital indexing has become more and more prevalent that these registers are no longer necessarily maintained in paper form.

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen hold directories of works of art cataloguing everything in their possession. In their current form, the accession books of the State Inventory have been kept since 1856 – subdivided according to the categories of painting and sculpture.

What do they contain?

The accession books of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen record the following: the inventory number, the artist and title, the description and signature, technique and measurements, notes on when and by whom the acquisition was made, the so-called ministerial resolution [permission of the ministry], as well as the value and location of the object. There is also a column for comments of any kind.

Why is this important for provenance research?

By making available these inventories on our website from May 2019 onwards, we meet the demands put forth by the Washington Principles to grant free access to documents which are indispensable for provenance research. This is part of our comprehensive efforts to ensure transparency in all matters relating to any unlawfully acquired works of art, such as those expropriated from Jewish owners that have either been directly placed in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen or that have been deposited in the hands of the Free State of Bavaria and from there transferred to us.

Researchers all over the world can now at any given time gain insight into the circumstances in which works of art were acquired by the Bavarian State Painting Collections between 1933 and 1945, i.e. during the period of National Socialism.

Dr. Andrea Bambi, Head of the Provenance Research Department