'Nightmare' art restoration leaves priceless sculpture looking unrecognizable: 'They destroy things'

Katie Mather
·3-min read

When you think of France, you think of the “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre. When you think of Italy, you think of the iconic “David of Michaelangelo” sculpture. Now, when you think of Spain, you will think of bad art restorations.

Spain has found itself in the center of yet another story about an amateur art restorer being hired to clean up a priceless piece of artwork, only to botch the job. This disaster took place in the city of Palencia.

A carved smiling woman surrounded by livestock has been turned into, as the publication Artnet News put it so perfectly, “a claymation nightmare.”

Local news outlets first picked up the story, but now it’s gone viral on Twitter and Facebook thanks to people, obviously, making memes about it.

One Palencia resident, Antonio Guzmán Capel, posted about the story on Facebook and said that while he agrees the art restorer is to blame for the blunder, he also thinks the person hired them should be punished.

As funny as the botched restoration looks, hiring amateur or inexperienced art restorers to touch up iconic and centuries-old pieces is a disaster that art historians have been begging people to avoid.

In June, an art collector in Spain (see!) hired a furniture restorer to fix up his painting of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s “The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables,” which was painted in 1678. For $1,400, the furniture restorer completely destroyed the piece.

In response, Fernando Carrera, a professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, told the Guardian that there was nothing funny about this.

“Let’s be honest: they’re bodgers who botch things up. They destroy things,” Carrera said. “Can you imagine just anyone being allowed to operate on other people? Or someone being allowed to sell medicine without a pharmacist’s license? Or someone who’s not an architect being allowed to put up a building?”

But the silver lining in all of this is one of the most famous botched art restorations actually saved a small village in — you guessed it — Spain. Cecilia Giménez’s 2012 viral interpretation of a Jesus fresco actually inspired hundreds of thousands of tourists to visit the tiny town to see it in real life.

Shop the first design in a collection that highlights Black artists and brings their vision for equality to life:

If you’re looking for some good art, you might like checking out In The Know’s profile on the artist who’s made 120 landmarks with 5 million toothpicks.

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