Provenance is a record or proof of authenticity or of past ownership, otherwise stated, the ownership history of a work of art.

Once a work of art has entered the secondary market, it has achieved a history of ownership, which is called provenance. Provenance is a French term for the history of ownership of a work of art. When works are sold by private art dealers, auction houses or galleries, there are accompanied by a record that is basically an inventoried list of precious owners. These are sometimes identified by the name or location e.g. “Private Collection, Zurich”), as well as by the names of art dealers, auction houses and galleries that have bought and sold the work. Specific dates of auction sales and the years collectors owned the work are often included. In addition to provenance, the record should also indicate the artwork’s exhibition history. Inclusion of an artwork in one or more important museum exhibitions enhances the work’s reputation; and so does any mention of the artwork in books and magazines, especially if it has been reproduced.

Provenance is often one of the tools used in establishing an artwork’s authenticity, title and value. An unbroken provenance accounts for the whereabouts of a work from the time of its creation to the present day, and the nearer a work's pedigree approaches this ideal, the more secure its attribution is likely to be.