Botched Restoration of Virgin Mary Painting in Spain Intensifies Calls for Regulation

ArtNews, Claire Selvin, 22.06.2020 : “Botched Restoration of Virgin Mary Painting in Spain Intensifies Calls for Regulation”

A copy of a painting by the Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo is at the center of the latest high-profile restoration gone wrong. According to a report in the Guardian, a botched effort to repair a work depicting the Immaculate Conception has led to louder cries for stricter restoration laws in Spain.

The face of the Virgin Mary in the work was altered two times by a furniture restorer enlisted by a private collector in Valencia. The Spanish collector reportedly paid €1,200 (about $1,350) for the restoration, which left the painting in a drastically different state from the original.

Fernando Carrera, a professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, has been a vocal advocate for curbing amateur restoration jobs in the country, which has witnessed several clumsy artwork restorations in recent years. They include the infamous “Beast Jesus”—a 19th-century fresco restored by Cecilia Giménez that became a viral sensation—and the attempted restoration of a 16th-century painted sculpture of Saint George.

“Can you imagine just anyone being allowed to operate on other people?” Carrera said in an interview with the Guardian. “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?”

María Borja, vice president of internal relations and coordinator of the Professional Association of Conservative Restorers of Spain, told the Spanish publication Las Provincias that amateur restoration attempts are “unfortunately much more frequent than you think” and that they often lead to “irreversible change.”