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Auction sales catalogs: find them, find what is contained in them: Indexes: find historical/retrospective sales

Annotated bibliography of databases and print sources for finding information on works sold at auction, and for finding auction catalogs.

Featured resource: Getty Provenance Index

This extraordinary group of resources currently includes the following databases:

Archival Inventories
Archival inventories are legal documents from private and public archives that list objects from a household. The inventories in this database list works of art from private collections in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and France from 1550 to 1840. The Inventory Descriptions section of this database contains 5,200 documents. From these documents, more than 270,000 individual records have been entered in the Inventory Contents section. Photocopies of most of these documents can be found in theCollectors Files .

Sales Catalogs 
Typically published by auction houses and dealers, sales catalogs list works of art for public auction. This database includes catalogs from major cities in Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia from 1650 to 1945. The Sale Descriptions section of this database contains more than 15,000 catalogs. From these catalogs, more than one million records have been entered into the Sale Contents section. This database also contains private contract sales through which collectors were able to acquire artworks during an extended period of exhibition. Photocopies of most of these documents can be found in the Sales Catalogs Files.

Additionally, bibliographic information on more than 2,000 German Sales Catalogs from 1930 to 1945 is available in the Sale Descriptions section. More than 230,000 individual auction sales records for paintings, sculptures, and drawings have been extracted from these catalogs, and each record is linked to the full PDF of its corresponding catalog residing at the website of the Heidelberg University Library. 

Goupil & Cie Stock Books 
Maintained by galleries and art dealers, stock books record information about a work of art such as the date of acquisition, name and address of the seller, dimensions of the artwork, name of the purchaser, date of sale, and the selling price. This database contains 43,700 records transcribed from the 15 stock books of Goupil & Cie/Boussod, Valadon & Cie. 

Payments to Artists 
This database contains approximately 1,000 recorded payments to artists made in Rome between 1576 and 1711.

Search databases and books for historical auction sales

Art Sales Catalogues Online

Full-text database of art sales catalogues for major American and European auction houses, published from 1600 to 1900, based on Lugt (see Répertoire des Catalogues de Ventes Publiques…, below).  Catalogues can be searched by Lugt number, date, place of sale, provenance, content, auction house, and existing copies. The libraries database allows you to find libraries with holdings of art sales catalogues.
Note that this database is fully searchable.  It can be used to find specific art sales catalogs, and in addition it can be used to search for specific artists, works of art, and decorative art objects.

Clark/Williams electronic resource


Getty Provenance Index Databases

The Getty Provenance Index® Databases, part of the Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance (PSCP) at the Getty Research Institute, contain indexed transcriptions of material from auction catalogs and archival inventories of western European works of art, and nearly 1,000,000 records that cover the period from the late 16th century to the early 20th century.  The website also includes materials on provenance research resources and on Holocaust-era research resources.  See the box to the left for links and more information.

Internet resource



Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century (mostly old master and early English pictures).  Algernon Graves.  London:  Graves, 1918-1921.

Alphabetical by artist.  For each work, gives date of sale, auctioneer, owner, lot number, title, and purchaser.  A principal omission is that Turner drawings from 1806 to 1856 are not recorded “probably in consequence of the slips being lost.”

Stacks  N8640 G73 (3 vols.)


Catalogue Général des Ventes Publiques de Tableaux et Estampes Depuis 1737 Jusqu'à nos Jours: contenant 1. Les prix des plus beaux tableaux, dessins, miniatures, estampes, ouvrages à figures et livres sur les arts. 2. Des notes biographiques formant un dictionnaire des peintres et des graveurs les plus célèbres de toutes les écoles. P[ierre] Defer.  Paris: Chez Aubry, Clement, Rapilly, 1865-1866.

Part 1. vols. 1-2. Estampes -- Part 2. vols 1-2. Tableaux, dessins, gouaches et miniatures. 

Stacks  N8640 D44 (2 parts in 4 volumes)


Corpus of Paintings Sold in the Netherlands During the Nineteenth Century, Volume 1: 1801-1810.  Burton B. Frederickson, ed.  Los Angeles: Provenance Index of the Getty Information Institute, 1998-.

Volume 1 includes the results of 182 sales held in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, and other cities.  Include results of substantial research on provenance and private collections.  Entries include artist’s name, sale date and location, auctioneer, lot number, title (this includes everything written about the work in the sale catalog, including the “extensive verbiage meant to raise a potential buyer’s perception of the painting’s value”), annotations and the source of the annotations, materials, format, size, inscription, notes, present location, seller, transaction, price, and buyer.  The information contained in the book is also included in the Getty Provenance Index Databases (see box at left), a series of databases containing information crucial to the study of the collecting practices of past centuries.

Reference  N8640 C67


Dictionnaire des Ventes d’Art Faites en France et a l’Etranger Pendant les XVIIIme et XIXme Siecles.  Hippolyte Mireur.  Paris:  Soullie, 1901-12.

Important for documentation of works of art.  Includes paintings, drawings, prints, watercolors, miniatures, pastels, gouaches, sepia drawings, charcoal drawings, enamels, fans, and stained glass.  Alphabetical by artist.  Includes prices for about 50,000 items.  Entries include artist’s name and brief description (e.g. “peintre et graveur francais, ne a Paris en 1704, mort en 1770”), year of sale and the seller (or “Vente X” and the sale date for an anonymous sale), title of work and a brief description, and sale price in francs.

Stacks  N8640 M57  (7 vols.)


Index of Paintings Sold in the British Isles During the Nineteenth Century.  Burton Fredericksen, ed.  Sanda Barbara:  ABC-Clio, 1988-.

Seven volumes cover 1801-1820, with more volumes forthcoming.  Scholarly and richly detailed work, containing data from many sale catalogs not recorded by Lugt.  Information is arranged in four indexes: sales catalog, artist, owner, and previous owner. Entries include artist, date of sale, city, auctineer, lot number, title (this includes everything written about the work in the catalog; often includes information on the artist, the subject, or provenance), annotations and their source, materials, format, size, inscription, notes, seller, price, and buyer.   In addition to sale information, entries contains a wealth of biographical and contextual detail of the early 19th-century art trade in Britain.  Sme of the information contained in the books can also be searched online in  British Sales 1780-1800, part of the Getty Provenance Index Databases, a series of databases containing information crucial to the study of the collecting practices of past centuries (see box to left).

Reference  N8640 I53  (7 vols.)


Index of Portraits Sold at Auction in London: Listed in Grave's 'Art  Sales," 3 volumes and the Year's art, 1913-1934.  [Compiled by Edgar T. Stanton].  [New York?, 193-]

Typewritten copy of an index presumably originating in the Duveen Brothers firm.  On spine: Portraits sold at auction 1700-1934.

Stacks  N8640 G74


Lugt, Frits.  Répertoire des Catalogues de Ventes Publiques, Intéressant d’Art ou la Curiosité: Tablieax, dessins, estampes, miniatures, sculptures, bronzes, émaux, vitraux, tapisseries, céramiques, objets d’art, meubles, antiquités, monnaies, médailles, camées, intailles, armes, instruments, curiosités naturelles, etc.  La Haye: Nijhoff, 1938-64.

This time-honored reference work, usually referred to simply as "Lugt,"  is a chronological listing and union catalog of auction sales catalogs from many European auction houses.   Vol. 1 lists catalogs published 1600-1825, vol. 2 covers 1826-60, vol. 3 covers 1861-1900, and vol. 4 covers 1901-1925.  Information reported for each entry: catalog number; date; location of sale; name of collector, artist, merchant, or proprietor; contents; number of lots; auctioneers; number of pages in catalog; libraries in which catalog may be found and whether it is priced.    Each catalog is identified by a number and these "Lugt numbers" are important identifiers in the world of auction catalog research.  May be used with the microfiche Art Sales Catalogues 1600-1881 and 1826-1860 and with Art Sales Catalogues Online (see under Digital and Microfilm Collections).   Scipio (see under Union Catalogs) is a more up to date and comprehensive source that can be used to locate auction catalogs in library holdings.

Reference  N8650 L8  (4 vols.)