Provenance is derived from the French word "provenir" meaning "to come from." Anthropologists and historians use the term to refer to the location or ownership of an object since its creation. Art historians often use it to trace the chronology of ownership of a work of art to establish authenticity and/or appraisal value, establish ownership of an artwork (especially if the work is alleged to have been looted or stolen), and to understand the history of the object in terms of cultural importance or to inform its display in a museum.
If you are researching a work of art, you will want to start your research by consulting an artist's catologue raisonné or complete list of the artists known works (there isn't always one but it's worth a try). Search the library catalog for the artist plus catologue raisonné or complete work* (searches for work or works in the catalog). You can also search the Getty Provenance Index at http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/provenance/index.html. Next, use the Art History Research Guide to explore DePaul Library Resources.