In the most recent volume of the Pennsylvania State Press series on collecting in the United States, authors explore the changing attitudes towards Baroque art and patterns of acquisition. Building off the foundational work of Eric Zafran, editor Edgar Peters Bowron notes in the “Introduction,” that the 1920s and 1950s were the decades when there was the greatest interest in Baroque painting. By 1930 the Minneapolis Institute of Art had acquired works by Guido Reni and Guercino; these artists were described as belonging to the “sentimental Baroque” almost a century early. Around the same time, the Detroit Institute of Arts began a collection, which includes a number of Baroque works, that were to help make it a “center of art education.” (Derstine in Bowron, 103)

The affordability of Baroque art also helped to drive individual collecting. In Duluth, Minnesota, George and Alice Tweed began purchasing 19th-and-early 20th century paintings along with Baroque pieces in the 1920s. The works of art, including The Scourging of Saint Blaise, were displayed in their private home. This Italianate mansion, built by Frederick Perkins between 1911 and 1914, includes a light-filled gallery space on the ground floor and the living-quarters on the second floor (like the piano noble of an Italian palace).

After Mr. Tweed died in 1946, Alice donated the home and the holdings to the University of Minnesota Duluth. The house served as a public museum until Alice donated additional funds for the construction of the current museum which is integrated into the campus fabric. 

The Tweed’s Baroque collection includes a number of paintings representative of the Baroque including a number of Dutch landscape paintings. Like their contemporaries in the United States, the Tweeds sought pieces influenced by Caravaggio but also purchased Carlo Dolci’s Madonna and Child with Cherubs. Typifying the style of Caravaggio, The Scourging of Saint Blaise, once attributed to Bartolommeo Manfredi and now assigned to Filippo Vitali (1585-1650), depicts the torture of the early-fourth-century bishop during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. Before being beheaded, Romans tore St. Blaise’s flesh with wool-combs. St Blaise remains the patron saint of wool-combers but is also the saint of throat ailments and wild animals.

References: Bowron, Edgar Peters, Ed. Buying Baroque: Italian Seventeenth-Century Painting Come to America (2017); Tweed Museum of Art-History; Renalls, Candace. “Updated, restored and ready for guests.” Duluth News Tribune (Sept 16, 2017).

Filippo Vitale, The Scourging of Saint Blaise (early 17th century), oil on canvas, 64 3/4″ x 75 3/4″. Collection Tweed Museum of Art, UMD. Gift of Mrs. E. L. (Alice Tweed) Tuohy. D58x20. Credit: Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth

Frederick Perkins. Tweed House (1911-1914). Duluth, MN. Photo credit: Jennifer D. Webb

Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth. Photo credit: Jennifer D. Webb

Further reading: R. Ward Bissell, Andria Derstine, Dwight Miller. Masters of Italian Baroque Painting: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Giles, 2005; Virginia Brillant. Italian, Spanish, and French Painting in the Ringling Museum of Art. London & New York: Scala, 2018.

Posted by: Jennifer D. Webb

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