Overview: Provenance Transaction Types

In order to appropriately present the detailed history of your artworks there are a lot of different information to be recorded in the provenance entries. Navigating.art provides a variety of options for you to specify these provenances.

As mentioned, the Navigating.art platform allows you to record every single part of your artwork's provenance. By choosing different types of possession and ownership, transaction types as well as information about who was involved in these transactions - people and institutions alike - you can record every step in its richness of detail in the form of events. These events mostly define ownership changes or can also show e.g. when an artwork was destroyed or stored in a certain place. This article is designed to give you an overview of the events describing provenance transaction types as well as Agents to add, and is thus spilt in 2 parts: 

  1. Choosing the correct transaction type
  2. Adding Agents

Choosing the correct transaction type

When documenting an ownership change it is important to choose the correct transaction type. Our system provides plenty of different transaction types which fit in the categories of 1. ownership events (e.g. acquisiton, sale bequest, gift), 2. possession events (e.g. partial or fractional gift) and 3. unrightful ownership changes (e.g. looting, forced sale).

The following, alphabetically sorted list will explain the different types of transactions provided on our platform: 


The artwork was acquired by the named party in an unknown fashion. 

This transaction type is the basic option for acquisitions and refers to an acquisition of which there are no additional details available. Thus, this transaction type should be used, if there is no explicit acquisition method mentioned.

Artis's studio

The artwork is directly received from the artist’s studio. It can also document a time period where the work was stored in the artist’s studio.


The artwork is given to the receiver through a will following the death of the previous owner, or Source.

By descent

The artwork was given to the receiver following the death of a previous owner who was their family member. 

By exchange

This transaction type describes an acquisition where the artwork was given to the named party in exchange for something of value instead of money.


The artwork was commissioned by the named party.


This artwork was legally appropriated by an entity without the consent of the previous owner.


The artwork was given to the named party in order for them to sell the artwork. During this process the named party is not the owner of the artwork but merely the custodian.


The artwork was permanently destroyed.


The artwork is given to the receiver, typically an institution.

Forced sale

The receiver purchased the artwork by using involuntary pressure on the seller. 


The artwork was found by the named party.

Fractional gift

A fraction of the source’s entire interest in an artwork is transferred to the receiver. The source intends to transfer the remaining fraction at a future date.


The artwork is given to the receiver, typically to a person or a group of people - as opposed to an institution, without any payment or tradeoff in exchange.

In possession

The named party has temporary custody, but not ownership of this artwork.


The artwork is given to the receiver following the death of the previous owner, or source, who was outside the immediate family. In France, a legal will is necessary.

Location unknown

The artwork cannot be located by known parties.


The artwork was looted during a conflict, such as a war, by the named party.

On deposit

The named party has been given temporary custody without permission to sell or exhibit the artwork.

On loan

The named party has been given temporary custody for use, but without permission to sell the artwork.

Partial gift

This is used for the transfer from one party to a legal entity that includes both themselves and another party.

Promised gift

The current owner of the artwork (Source) intends to give it to the receiver, usually a museum. Depending on the institution, there is a formal process whereby the artwork receives an inventory number and the transaction type is included in the credit line.


The artwork was returned to its owner from a party which had temporary custody.


The was purchased by the named party.


The artwork is legally appropriated by the receiver, oftentimes on behalf of the state or for sovereign use, without the previous owner’s (the Source’s) consent.

When used to describe Nazi activities during the WWII-era, the term implies that the artwork is not eligible for restitution.

Sous réserve d'usufruit

The artwork is given to a museum during the owner’s lifetime and can be exhibited to the public.


The artwork was stolen by the named party.


The artwork is kept e.g. in a room or depot for future use


This artwork was given to the named party from another part or element of the same named party as well as the transfer from some form of partial ownership to being completely owned by one of the partial owners.


Adding Agents

Most provenance events offer you to add Agents to the entries, meaning people or institutions involved in the transactions. Let's take a look at what the different agents mean: 

1. Source

The Source describes the previous owner or custodian of the artwork. This can be a person as well as an institution. For example in the case of the transaction type by decent this would be the person who died while he had complete ownership of the artwork. 

2. Receiver

The Receiver is the person or institution who becomes the new owner or custodian of the artwork. In our example of the transaction type by decent the artwork would be given to a family member of the previous owner (the Source) after the latter passed away. Thus this family member becomes the new owner and in our case the Receiver.

3. Sub-agent

The field Agents within the provenance entries allows you to add sub-agents to the transactions. A sub-agents could for example be a person who negotiated the transaction. 


In case you can't find the matching transaction type or need help with assigning the agents please don't hesitate to contact us via email to support@navigating.art or reaching out through our form to contact support