Historic paintings get serious TLC


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A hidden gem in the heart of the Twin Cities is helping keep historic and important works of art for future generations.

Inside the underbelly of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), history is being restored. It’s taking place inside the Paintings Lab at Midwest Art Conservation, where Rita Berg works as a paintings conservator.

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“We work for museums, universities, churches, artists, private collectors. You can bring a painting to us if you’d like [laughs]!” Berg said.

For months, they have been restoring “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” — painted by Italian artist Cristoforo Roncalli in the early 17th century.

“[Pope Urban VIII Barberini] commissioned this picture right before he became pope, so we know it’s from the early 1620s,” said MIA art curator Rachel McGarry.

The three-person team is stripping it down, reinforcing its integrity, then refilling with techniques the original artist would’ve used.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re color matching by eye, nothing else,” Berg said. “We’re using materials that are stable and that could be removed in the future.”

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It is a tedious process that melds science, history and art.

“We need to understand materials, we need to understand their techniques,” Berg said.

And a touch of surgery.

“We have scalpels, we use dental tools sometimes,” Berg said. “I’m pretty sure this [tool’s] used in eye surgery.”

It’s all done with the hope their work will last another century or two.

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“You spend so much time with a piece of art that you get to know it so intimately, and you get to appreciate it on one level or another,” Berg said.

Erin Hassanzadeh

Erin Hassanzadeh joined WCCO in March 2019. Erin last worked at KETV in Omaha. Before that, she was in Seoul, South Korea after finishing a two year…More from Erin Hassanzadeh