Another botched European art piece sparks calls for change

The Virgin Mary's face was left unrecognisable.
The Virgin Mary's face was left unrecognisable. Photo credit: Reddit

A copy of a painting by baroque artist  Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was botched during a restoration, leaving Spanish conservation experts calling for change.

A private art collector based in Valencia paid over $2000 NZD to have the piece cleaned by furniture restorers, who left the painting of the Virgin Mary’s face completely disfigured. The owner asked for a second attempt at the restoration only to make the disfigurement worse.

The blunder has pushed Spanish art conservationists to call for a tightening of restoration laws. 

Fernando Carrera, professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural heritage told The Guardian the damaged painting highlights the need for restoration work to only be completed by professionals.

“I don’t think this guy or - those people - should be referred to as restorers,” Caerra told The Guardian. “Let's be honest: they’re bodgers who botch things up. They destroy things” 

Carrera told The Guardian the law in Spain currently allows people who aren't trained in art restoration to participate in restoration work.

“Can you imagine just anyone being allowed to operate on other people? Or someone being allowed to sell medicine without a pharmacists license?” he said to The Guardian.

Carrera said while restorers weren’t as important as doctors,  laws need to be stricter to maintain Spain's cultural history.

The painting joins a series of damaged artworks such as the ‘Monkey Christ’ incident in 2012.

A parishioner in Borja who attempted to restore the painting of Christ left it resembling a monkey. The ‘Monkey Christ’ made headlines around the world.

In 2018 a statue of Saint George and the Dragon in Northern Spain was botched during restoration leaving the saint looking more like cartoon character Tintin.

María Borja, vice president of Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators told the Guardian incidents like these were more common than one may think and damage can be irreversible.