Botched Virgin Mary painting restoration brings back memories of ‘Potato Jesus’ artwork
Spain is infamous for botched restorations of prized artworks. Who can forget the terrible restoration of the fresco painting of the Ecce Homo by the Spanish painter Elías García Martínez in 2012 that went viral? The restoration by Cecilia Gimenez, an untrained elderly amateur artist, left the original artwork which showed Jesus Christ crowned with thorns being turned into what the internet dubbed ‘Potato Jesus’ or ‘Monkey Christ’.
Now, an ill-fated art collector in Spain has suffered a similar fate when his copy of a painting of Virgin Mary by Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was left unrecognizable. Europa Press reported that the private collector from Valencia paid over $1300 for the Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables from 1678 to be restored by a furniture restorer. However, the furniture restorer obviously botched the painting, given that it was not furniture. And despite attempting to fix the painting two times, the restorer only managed to make it worse.
Last year, another botched restoration job had caught the internet’s attention when a 16th-Century statue of St George at a church in Spain’s Navarre was restored and ended up resembling a toy figurine.
In a statement, Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators (Acre) released a statement calling the incident an act of ‘vandalism’, condemning the lack of legal protection for art and warning that the industry was at ‘serious risk of disappearing’ in the country. The statement said, “This lack of regulation translates into an absence of protection of our heritage. In recent years, conservation-restoration professionals have been forced to emigrate or leave their professions due to a lack of opportunities.”
Fernando Carrera, a professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage and a former Acre president, told the Guardian, “We see this kind of thing time and time again and yet it keeps on happening. I don’t think this guy — or these people — should be referred to as restorers. Let’s be honest: they’re bodgers who botch things up. They destroy things.”
Reports state that the art collector has now approached a professional restorer in hopes of fixing his artwork. Presently there is no law in Spain that prohibits people who aren’t particularly skilled from restoring artwork.