Everyone remembers the extraordinary damage done to the painting of Christ titled “Ecce Homo” by a well-meaning but over-confident parishioner in Borja, Spain in 2016. In her attempt to ‘restore’ the 1930 painting, Cecila Giménez made it into something more akin to a finger painting. Amused tourists now call it “Ecco Mono,” or “Behold the Monkey.”
Now there’s been a new viral restoration botch job, and it’s harder to excuse its perpetrators. Instead of an over-reaching churchgoer who just wanted to spruce up her place of worship. The Immaculate Conception, a 17th century painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo has been bungled by someone claiming to be a professional restorer who has charged the owner $1200 for the labor.
Murillo’s painting is owned by a private art collector in Valencia, Spain. He contacted a furniture restorer who claimed to specialize in painting restorations to have his Immaculate Conception cleaned, at a rate of close to $1200 in Euros.
The restorer’s first attempt badly damaged the painting’s face, replacing her delicate, transcendent features with a clumsily-drawn face straight out of a first-grade classroom. Furious, the owner made the unwise decision to have the same so-called restorers try a second time. The painting was returned again, with a face now that even less resembled the original.
The damages, latest in a series of recent “restorations” that have been closer to vandalism, have European art experts and enthusiasts pushing for legislation to protect art in the future.
“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?” asked Fernando Carrera, professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage. He, and many of his peers, want a standard of licensing for art restorers in the future.