A failed restoration has left another famous painting unrecognizable.
This time, the restoration has left a painting of the Virgin Mary that looks more like the crooked self-portrait of a kindergarten. The painting was a copy of “The Immaculate Conception of El Escorial”, by the Virgin Mary, it was one of the famous series of the seventeenth century Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. The original version of Murillo is hanging in the Prado Museum in Madrid, and it is likely that this copy is also from Murillo, according to a statement from the Association of Conservators-Restorers (ACRE) of Spain. ACRE is an advocacy group that has advertised the failed artwork as part of an effort to change the rules on restoring paintings in the country.
According to a report in Spanish on Europa Press, the private collector who owned the copy hired a furniture restorer to fix the old paint. He returned the painting in an unrecognizable and stained state. After the collector complained, the restorer made another attempt to fix the painting and returned it even less as the original work of art.
Europa Press noted that the incident recalls a previous and failed restoration in Spain that ruined a fresco of Jesus with a crown of thorns and known as the Ecce Homo de Borja (it was exhibited in a church in Borja, Spain) by Cecilia Giménez.
(According to The Guardian, the aftermath of Borja’s Ecce Homo, nicknamed “Monkey Christ,” became a tourist attraction after the image was widely shared online.)
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Some in Spain are now calling for stricter rules in the country’s art restoration market.
These types of errors are surprisingly common, María Borja, ACRE coordinator, told Europa Press.
“We are only familiar with the cases that society denounces in the press or on social media, but there are many cases in which people without training intrude,” Borja said.
Borja and his group, ACRE, are highlighting the case as part of an effort to change Spanish law. ACRE wants to modify a rule that governs art management to require that only trained professionals attempt this type of restoration. (In fact, ACRE denounces the use of the word “restoration” to describe what was done to the painting of the immaculate conception, and instead indicates that this was “vandalism”).
For now, however, the circumstances that led to this unfortunate restoration are completely legal, yet Murillo’s collectors might feel it.