Spain Has Been Hit by Yet Another Bungling Restorer, Who Turned This Beautiful Virgin Mary Painting Into an Unrecognizable Blob

Restoration experts are now calling for greater regulation of the field.

The original, from a copy of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s work, and two attempts. Courtesy of CEDIDA / EUROPA PRESS.
The original, from a copy of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s work, and two restoration attempts. Courtesy of CEDIDA / EUROPA PRESS.

An attempt to restore a copy of baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables has turned its beatific Virgin Mary into a misshapen lump with red lips.

Immediately drawing comparisons to the viral “Beast Jesusrestoration fail of 2012, this latest attempt by an amateur restorer is prompting experts in Spain to call for more stringent regulations.

The anonymous owner of the marred Murillo work paid €1,200 ($1,350) for it to be cleaned by a furniture restorer, Europa Press reported, and was outraged when not one, but two attempts resulted in a complete disfiguration.

María Borja, a vice president of the Valencia chapter of the Professional Association of Conservative Restorers of Spain, told the outlet that while a handful of these incidents come to wide attention because of social media, “there are a multitude of situations where the works are intervened by people without training… possibly causing irreversible change.”

Elías García Martínez, Ecce Homo (1930), and Cecilia Giménez's infamous 2012 restoration attempt.

Elías García Martínez, Ecce Homo (1930), and Cecilia Giménez’s infamous 2012 restoration attempt.

Although the organization’s fundamental objectives include language that advocates for the preservation of cultural heritage, such as paintings, there is no specification for a professional conservation restorer to be commissioned. Speaking to the Guardian, former association president  Fernando Carrera, who is a professor in conservation and restoration, said “I don’t think this guy—or these people—should be referred to as restorers… they’re bodgers who botch things up. They destroy things.”

“Can you imagine just anyone being allowed to operate on other people? Or someone being allowed to sell medicine without a pharmacist’s license?” Carrera added, noting that while he understands restorers are not as critical to society as doctors, “we need to focus society’s attention on this… this is our history.”

Other failed conservation attempts in recent history include the refurbishment of a 500-year-old statue of St. George at the Church of San Miguel de Estella in Navarre, Spain, which resulted in a Disneyfied makeover; the statue of Santa Barbara at Brazil’s Santa Cruz da Barra Chapel; and the 15th-century statue of Virgin Mary that was “restored” by a local woman in Asturias, Spain.


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