Provenance Research into the Collection of Chinese Art at the Museum Rietberg: Switzerland and the transnational history of the art market and art collections

Esther Tisa Francini, Alexandra von Przychowski


In the example of research at the Museum Rietberg, the history of the art market for Chinese art from the provenance perspective presents itself as a history of collections. The article will demonstrate that an investigation into early art collectors can provide answers to the question when, how and in which context art works from China were appreciated, exhibited and sold. In the substantial history of art transfers, the era of National Socialism is one period that forms a focus of provenance research, but excavations, missions, scientific field trips, adventurer travels and many other contexts are also included in the wide definition of provenance research at the Museum Rietberg. Initial research on the von der Heydt collection found that Eduard von der Heydt was advised by major, mainly German specialist in Chinese and Asian Art at the time. Besides the von der Heydt collection, many other early collections of Asian art have come into the holdings of the museum since its inception, for example those of Mary Mantel-Hess, Gret Hasler, Otto Fischer, Herbert von Dirksen, and Herbert Ginsberg. The history of collecting Asian art provides valuable insights into the art market. A more profound cross-reference of the collection histories, provenance and reception history will be a task in the future to gain a better understanding of the art market in the first half of the twentieth century.


Rietberg; von der Heydt; Asian art

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