Provenance is defined as the origin or source of something, the history of ownership of an object or a valued work of art. The term originates from the French word meaning, "to come from" and that just about sums up what most people desire to know about things, objects that interest them. For many collectors, it seems the provenance adds some legitimacy to the thing and can be of equal importance to the object itself and for others the place where the piece was bought is provenance enough.
I am constantly being asked about or for the provenance of various pots that I post on my blog or that I am selling on my market place at Trocadero. Truth be told, for 95% there is no definitive provenance, someone bought a pot from someone who had bought a pot from someone else or from an auction, flea market, estate sale, tag sale, antique show or another internet website. Basically it boils down to the provenance being somewhat illusive and murky as the pot makes it circuitous route from its place of origin in Japan or Ottawa, the point of origin is about the only absolute in the equations. Not to lessen the value of modern pots, but let's face it, we aren't dealing with Faberge eggs or Picasso paintings. For those "collectibles" I can understand and even rationalize the insistence on a concrete provenance, with most pots though the best that can be attached to the pot is a guarantee that the particular pot is genuine.
As I have mentioned previously on my blog, playing detective is a useful skill when trying to track down the sometimes illusive history and provenance of a pot. The large Kohyama mentori vase is a good example where a certain part of the history has been discovered, but the time in between the exhibit in which the pot was photographed and its current residence, over two decades, remains in the shadows. I will concede that having photos from exhibitions like that or pots included in catalogues is about the best, sure fire provenance for most modern pots, excluding of course, exceptionally famous and important pieces. Illustrated is a very fine wood fired Yohen-Shino chaire photographed in front of a picture of itself from an exhibit catalogue, much like a mirror image. The chaire is by Shimaoka Tatsuzo student, Matsuzaki Ken and was fired in his large new wood kiln. The pot was first glazed in a thin wash of Shino which he swiped thick Shino over. The shoulder attracted ash and the introduction of large amounts of charcoal into the kiln created a rich reduction atmosphere which further affected the surface leading to areas of iridescence on the shoulder; the pure white ivory lid just adds a punctuation to the piece. At the end of the day, the picture of the chaire in front of the catalogue definitely defines its origin, but the mystery still remains; what was this piece up to between then and now?