Provenance is the third episode of the third season. It was released on 6 October 2006.
The theft of a high-profile painting, which unexpectedly turned into a murder, has the team exploring a disputed chain of custody and possible insurance fraud.
During ‘crazy credits’ footage from WWII is shown. A security guard is on his patrol. A man dressed in black sneaks in and gets into the CCTV system and is able to override it and the other security measures in place in the gallery. One of the other security guards notices the time is off in the footage and asks his colleague to check it out, however he is tied up and gagged. The thief is able to get the painting he is after. The able security guard finds him, but gets tased. The thief gets away.
Don and David are on the scene. The thief had targeted ‘Paris au Printemps, Aprés-Midi’ a painting by Pissarro. They talk to Arthur Ruiz, the curator of the gallery. It was the most valuable piece there (estimated worth was $22 million) and was about to start a tour the next month. They wonder if it was an inside job and Ruiz goes to get the personnel list.
Megan and David are going over the security that the gallery had. Don brings in agent Jack Tollner from the DC Art Theft Unit (ATU). He believes it will be a difficult piece to move due to its provenance. It was stolen previously by the Nazis. Tollner suggests they start to go through the list of known art thieves that the ATU has.
Charlie, Amita, and Larry are doing an experiment with a battery when Don approaches. He fills them in on the case. Megan thinks she found a potential thief: Erika Hellman. She is on the art theft registry due to this painting having been looted from her family during the war. One problem – she’s 78 years old. Tollner thinks she hired somebody. Megan talks to Ruiz about the painting’s past and how it would have impacted the gallery.
Don goes to talk to Erika Hellman. She tells him about when the painting was in her family’s possession. While he’s asking her questions her grandson, Joel, joins them. He’s not happy that the FBI is there investigating her.
Charlie, Amita, and Larry are discussing the painting and the history of his day. Larry reveals that his own father was a painter and wanted him to be a painter. Charlie starts to talk about his current issue with Alan when there’s a result from their search. Charlie takes their findings to the FBI. There are three suspects: Michael Ness, Ben Larkin, and Ronald Wheeler. Ness can’t be it because he’s in a Turkish prison and Larkin is dead, leaving Wheeler to be their best choice. Wheeler hasn’t entered the country under his own name so they send his photo out to hotels, etc. They find him under the name Gauthier. David and Tollner are let in by the hotel manager and find him dead in his room.
Tollner tells Don and Megan that Hellman’s story isn’t that uncommon. They wonder if the current private owner of the painting, Peyton Shoemaker, could have had anything to do with the theft as he was sued when he tried to sell it. Maybe he’s trying to get the insurance money instead.
Alan approaches Charlie in the garage. He gets after him for not fixing the pump in the koi pond, leading to a greater argument about how different the two men are in their lives.
Don and Megan talk to Shoemaker. He inherited the painting from his father who bought it in Paris just after WWII. They accuse him of having the art stolen for insurance. He tells them that he offered Hellman 30% of the profits from selling the painting, but Joel wasn’t having it.
Don checks in on Charlie who is balancing his finances. Charlie wonders why he’s kept his and Alan’s living arrangements for so long, but Don gets it. What he doesn’t get it is why they were never religious growing up. They only had the possibility of a Christmas tree, but never anything Jewish around the house. Don asks for Charlie’s help with finding where the murderer would have taken the painting.
David brings Megan and Tollner information that Joel hired a PI who worked with Ness to look into the Pissarro. There is footage of Joel from three months ago, spending time looking at the painting in the gallery. They bring him in for questioning. Don interrogates him about Tucci, the PI. He insinuates that Joel had a hand in the robbery, but Joel denies it. Don believes him so they’re back to looking at Shoemaker.
Charlie has recruited Amita and Larry to help him figure out where the painting would end up.
That night Don joins Alan for dinner. They talk about Charlie and Alan’s feud. They then discuss the case. Alan mentions an aunt who got out of Europe before the war. She tried to find family and friends after, but couldn’t find anybody.
The next day Charlie and Larry are looking at Larry’s art portfolio. Charlie can’t find the Pissarro in China. Larry believes that the assumption of it being sold could be holding them back from finding the painting. Charlie gets a brainwave and rushes off.
Charlie talks to Don, Megan, and Tollner about an idea. He compares the craquelure and visual style. The stolen Pissarro is a forgery. Megan and David talk to Ruiz. He doesn’t believe it’s a fake as it was authenticated and restored since that authentication. They talk to Peyton Holden who both authenticated the painting and restored it. Megan takes a look at the gallery’s art catalogue. The photo in it of the Pissarro was provided by Shoemaker, not the gallery. Not an overly common occurrence. They don’t know if Shoemaker knew if it was a fake or not.
Alan goes to see Charlie with a peace offering which doesn’t last long. He digs into Charlie’s life choices again. They have a heart-to-heart about Charlie's choices.
The FBI has a search warrant and are searching an angry Shoemaker’s home. He thinks that the Hellman’s are behind this and Megan informs him that they aren’t. He gets even angrier when a tech tells her that they can’t find the painting. Don, Megan, and Tollner realise that they should find the forger, not the painting. They take photos of known forgeries and give them to Charlie to analyse. He finds that the forger was Gustav Stohlberg who died in 1948. David finds a file on him. He had five forged paintings on him. One of which was the Pissarro. They believe that the original has been sitting in a Hungarian lockup for 60 years. Tollner posits that Hellman’s father must had hired him to make a forgery and hold onto the original for safe keeping for the duration of the war. Megan believes that Shoemaker must not have known that it was a forgery and that Holden must be behind the theft. He fingers Ruiz as the one who had the painting stolen. When Megan and Tollner approach him he doesn’t deny his actions. He is taken away in cuffs.
Don takes the original Pissarro, just arrived from Hungary, to Hellman and Joel.
At the Eppes’ house Charlie, Alan, and Larry are discussing what happened during WWII. Don joins them. Charlie and Larry go out to barbeque dinner. When Don and Alan are alone he asks Alan to get the names that their aunt was looking into – he wants to try to find them.
- The technical term for the established history and documented 'lineage' of works of art, the proof needed to create an unbroken line of legitimate ownership. This issue is particularly thorny - and expensive, in terms of legal fees - with stolen and plundered works of art, with numerous objets d'art from WWII still being haggled over.
The song played during the closing scene, "Hallelujah," was written by Jewish artist Leonard Cohen.
Agent Tollner mentions "a woman who got several Klimt paintings back from an Austrian national museum" in comparison to Mrs. Hellman and others like her. This is likely a reference to Maria Altmann, possibly the most well-known story of actual recovery of Nazi-looted possessions; her story was told in the movie "Woman in Gold," named for the portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer that was called The Woman in Gold or The Lady in Gold after it was stolen from the family. As of 2019, it is currently housed in the Neue Galerie New York under the title Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
[This appears at the beginning of the episode.] 1 Fatherland, 1,000 years, 800,000 works of art, 6 Million