Palencia sculpture

There is nothing new about inept art restoration. But in the past decade or so and particularly since the 2012 destruction of the Ecce Homo in Borja by a well-meaning parishioner, it has become a popular kind of public spectacle.

The latest, which was posted to Twitter on Sunday, November 9th, isn’t a painting but instead a sculpture. The smiling maiden, who sits in repose surrounded by farm animals and fruits aplenty on the exterior of a classically decorated bank in Palencia, Italy, began with delicate, smiling features. But after an accident knocked her head off earlier this year, a restorer was commissioned. But budget reasons precluded actually looking for a professional art restorer.

Instead, the job was given to an anonymous amateur, and the result so closely resembles the “Monkey Christ” that was once the Ecce Homo that it may well be a deliberate homage. The face is badly flattened, with uneven gouges for eyes and a mouth, and a knob of a nose. The odd, pursed shape of the lips remind some of President Donald Trump.

“Seeing as he has to leave the White House, he’s moved in here,” commented a local on a Facebook post by Antonio Capel, the Palencian artist who first drew attention to the “restoration.”

Professional artists, restorers and conservators in Europe have, for some time now, been lobbying to make art restoration a licensed profession to protect objects of significance from just such treatment. This sculpture only dates back as far as 1923, when the building was built, but the same travesty has happened to pieces like the 9th century wooden carving of St. George in Navarre. Worse, the damage is nearly always unrecoverable, as amateur restorers don’t have the body of knowledge necessary to do no lasting harm. For more examples of art vandalism, whether intentional or not, look up the hashtag on twitter #ThisIsNotARestoration.