A core activity of all art museums is the full documentation of the works of art under their stewardship. Such documentation includes records of exhibition and publication, physical condition, and provenance (ownership history). The goal of provenance research is to trace the history of ownership of a work of art as completely as possible from the time of its creation to the present day.
In recent years, there has been a major effort to investigate the World War II–era provenance of European works of art in the collections of American museums. In 2000, the American Association of Museums (AAM) created guidelines and recommended procedures for museums to undertake provenance research on their collections and make this data available to the public. By conducting and disseminating this research, museums can help determine if works of art in their collections could have been seized or stolen by the Nazis during the war, and subsequently not restituted to their rightful owners.
In accordance with these guidelines, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has been conducting ongoing research into European works of art in the permanent collection that have gaps in their history of ownership or changed ownership during the years from 1932 to 1945, or may have been in Europe during that period. A listing of these works is available through the AAM's Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal (www.nepip.org), an online index of objects in American museums that meet these criteria.
Further research is being conducted on the following painting in the BAM/PFA collection:
Pieta with Three Saints, circa 1529
Oil on canvas
43-5/8" H. X 60-3/8" W. (111.0 X 154.0 cm)
Dr. Theodor Fischer, Lucerne (d. 1957), Switzerland; Frederick Mont (formerly Frederick Mondschein), New York; Museum purchase 1965
In 1965, the Berkeley Art Museum (then University Art Museum) purchased the Pieta from Frederick Mont, a New York dealer of old master paintings. Mr. Mont had been recommended as a source of old master paintings to Peter Selz, then director of the museum, by Kenneth Donahue, then director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Documentation provided by Mont at the time of the sale stated that the Pieta was discovered by Professor Rudolfo Pallucchini in the private collection of Dr. Theodor Fischer, in Lucerne, Switzerland, and that Professor Pallucchini brought the painting to the attention of art historian Creighton Gilbert, who first published it the Gazette des Beaux-Arts in 1953.
Dr. Theodor Fischer's name appears on the "Provisional List of Names Mentioned in Relation to Art Looting During the Holocaust Era," distributed by the Commission for Art Recovery. It is currently unknown how the Pieta was acquired by Dr. Fischer.