Now for the fun stuff, our vocab word of the week!
prov·e·nance \ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\ : The history of ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature. French provenir, "to come from".
An example of a very long and old provenance of a work is The Arnolfini Protrait by Jan van Eyck (see left). The documented history of this piece dates back to 1434! It's hard to believe this piece was purchased for a mere £600! ($950). If you read through the entire provenance, you can see how the piece evolved over time; i.e. it used to have shutters and an original frame.
This painting is well recognized around the world because it is the only surviving panel from 15th-century northern Europe that specifically shows contemporary people interacting in a contemporary house. It's also pretty baller that the literal translation of the artist's signature is "Jan van Eyck was here". The signature of the artist in this case has been used in the literal interpretation that the artist was there; this meaning that he witnessed an event rather than only creating the work. What did he witness? A wedding? A lawful transference of legal power to the gentleman's wife? There has been a lengthy argument amongst art historians on the meaning behind this work, and unfortunately the provenance can only tell us so much! We're not going to get into that now, but a nice little diddy on this painting can be found here.
Fun fact, his work titled Demoiselles d’Avignon was modeled after these stolen objects (see right).
|Empty Space Unoccupied by Mona Lisa|
Why did we name this post 'A Fingerprint and a Doorknob' you may ask? The only piece of evidence linking Peruggia to the crime was a doorknob he had removed from the door to get out of the Louvre and tossed in the ditch, and one fingerprint that was left on the wall where the Mona Lisa had hung. Why didn't this link him to the crime earlier? The detective on the case had the fingerprints of all the past and present employees of the Louvre. The fingerprint that had been on the wall was from Peruggia's left hand, and what the detective had on file were right handed prints. ZING! That's a 'face-palm' moment if I've ever heard one.
Did the heist of the Mona Lisa add to it's historical worth? We sure think so! If not, at least it's an interesting story. If you're curious about the details of the stealing of the Mona Lisa a good book to read is The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. You can read an excerpt from the book here.