Definition of provenance in English:



mass noun
  • 1The place of origin or earliest known history of something.

    ‘an orange rug of Iranian provenance’
    • ‘Bemused, she enquired about their provenance - history - only to be told that they had come from St Andrews.’
    • ‘Pointing at a text's historical and political provenance and ideological bias may not increase the pleasure of reading.’
    • ‘Scriptures of different provenance and the information derived from them are related to one another and connected together.’
    • ‘Since Pallucchini's researches into the known history and provenance of the Modena triptych turned up only references to its existence in north Italy, he concluded it was a work done during El Greco's period in Venice.’
    • ‘My assignment: ‘Write about the provenance or historical origin of your favorite food or dish.’’
    • ‘The following items include a complete description of each relic, it's historical significance, exhibition history, and provenance.’
    • ‘But the rarity, provenance, history and physical condition of the print all play their part.’
    • ‘Because the blocks themselves are so glorious the signatures are almost insignificant, until that is, one begins to look at the history or provenance of the quilt.’
    • ‘This article draws together the archival and historical references to this remarkable set of royal furniture, seeking to address all the issues relevant to its origins, provenance, use and display.’
    • ‘In the menus, which are available in English and Bulgarian, their provenance is explained, along with some Mussel Lore for those in need of a little reading matter while waiting for their dishes to arrive.’
    • ‘Raw materials of good provenance, sourced locally wherever possible, are the sine qua non of any healthy, thriving food culture.’
    • ‘One leaf was collected from short shoots of three trees per each of clone, provenance or origin at stages 1, 3 and 5 of leaf development.’
    • ‘An archival collection is a group of items that have a shared history and provenance.’
    • ‘He added: ‘We did not find direct evidence that consumers were being ripped off, but the problem with unhallmarked items is that their provenance is uncertain.’’
    • ‘Prospective buyers can't view the car before making a pitch, but full documentation proving the car's provenance and service history are promised.’
    • ‘Whatever the historical provenance of the Cumberland sausage, it soon became a well established feature on the household menu in Cumbria.’
    • ‘Expert knowledge is needed to value goods, confirm their provenance and determine their future worth.’
    • ‘I wish them better luck than I had in determining the absolute provenance of its information and wording.’
    • ‘Data from gamma ray spectrometry can provide useful information on sediment provenance and environmental conditions.’
    • ‘Entries convey the vagaries of composition, the media in which the verses were preserved, and any relevant information concerning their provenance, disposition, and genre.’
    origin, source, place of origin
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The beginning of something's existence; something's origin.
      ‘they try to understand the whole universe, its provenance and fate’
      • ‘Each describes the history and provenance of the building in question, tells us at least something of its builders and early owners, and provides copious documentation in the form both of notes and bibliography.’
      • ‘Today's children are blessed with the opportunity to open their minds to the shattering wonder of their own existence, the nature of life and its remarkable provenance in a yet more remarkable universe.’
      • ‘In conclusion, some final comments about the provenance of both contrasting theories are appropriate, before extending briefly suggestions for Anglican apologetic today.’
    2. 1.2count noun A record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.
      ‘the manuscript has a distinguished provenance’
      • ‘It was also during the years of World War II that Marjorie Post acquired two icons with imperial provenances.’
      • ‘The latter had a knack for persuading descendants of Chinese nobles to part with their inherited treasures, including rare paintings and porcelains with imperial provenances.’
      • ‘The provenances of documented pieces clearly indicate that painted furniture was not made for the lower classes, as was traditionally believed, but for members of the middle and upper classes.’
      • ‘Furniture and other possessions that survive with long and reliable provenances may still elude adequate identification of the earliest circumstances of ownership.’
      • ‘Therefore, the precise provenances and functions of the two Doric capitals found in this building (parts of colonnades, supports for benches, or material for the lime kiln?) must remain indeterminate.’
      • ‘Duanfang's foresight in publishing his collection allows us to reconstruct provenances for hundreds of objects in collections around the world.’
      • ‘It should also be noted that there are no contact-period materials from the Johnson site and that the only historic materials recovered date to the nineteenth century and did not occur in the provenances associated with the figurines.’
      • ‘False provenances and certificates of authenticity are favorite tools of cheats and should never be accepted blindly.’
      • ‘In a flurry of Internet activity that seemed timed to coincide with a government hearing, five major American museums posted information in mid-April on works in their collections with questionable WWII-era provenances.’
      • ‘Neither dates nor provenances can convincingly explain the development of these distinct artistic languages within the Jewish art of the Iberian Peninsula.’
      • ‘Drewe was a master himself in creating provenances for the newly minted works, which he then sold to members of the art establishment.’
      • ‘He sets out to establish a solid stylistic chronology, relying heavily on dated objects or those with invincible provenances, tradesmen's bills, and house inventories.’
      • ‘Looking hack to the 1930s, she wrote in 1954 that she and other dealers and collectors had not been as rigorous as they might have been about recording provenances.’
      • ‘When I was a student of art history, I spent my days doggedly tracking down art objects, provenances and sources, historical and contemporary influences, stylistic affinities and social contexts, readings and interpretations.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, chairs with reliable provenances linking them to old Delaware families do survive, and attention to the histories and the design of these chairs yield a core of furniture that may reasonably be called Delaware-made.’
      • ‘The catalogue conscientiously lists provenances, literature and exhibitions.’
      • ‘In order to compare the differences between the provenances at different times, the original data was pooled into three groups: southern, intermediate and northern, with two provenances in each.’
      • ‘The Stenton chairs are rich both in reliable provenances - established several generations ago - and in eighteenth-century bills, inventories, and other written references.’
      • ‘Most had, understandably assumed that Jacobite glass objects had solid provenances and that those who had written on the subject had done so after having done their research.’
      • ‘The provenances of his so-called ‘Contarini ceiling’ and gilt leather, supposedly from the same palazzo, are similarly confused.’


Late 18th century: from French, from the verb provenir ‘come or stem from’, from Latin provenire, from pro- ‘forth’ + venire ‘come’.