Another botched restoration, this time on painting of the Immaculate Conception

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo/Public Domain (left) Photograph: Cedida por Coleccionista/Europa Press 2020/Fair Use

The features of Virgin Mary are unrecognizable in the restored version of a painting by the 17th-century painter Murillo.

In recent years, Spain has been the setting of world-famous botched restoration scandals, from the Ecce Homo painting turned into an ape-looking figure, to the Playmobil-looking restoration of Saint George and the Dragon. This time, the victim of a well-intention restoration gone bad is a 17th-century work by prominent Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. 

A private collector in Valencia asked a local restorer to “clean up” a copy of a work of Murillo titled “Immaculate Conception,” featuring a youthful looking Virgin Mary. But the “clean up” did not go as intended. The angelic facial features of the Virgin Mary have turned into an unrecognizable cartoon-like version of themselves. 

Experts are now calling for better regulation of art restoration to prevent further damage to works of art. 

In an interview with The Guardian, Fernando Carrera, former president of Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators (ACRE), said that currently restorers who lack adequate skills are legally allowed to perform work on valuable works of art. 

“Let’s be honest: they’re bodgers who botch things up,” he said “They destroy things.”

Together with other art history experts, Carrera is calling for a review of regulations to require mandatory training for professional restorers.

“Paradoxically, it shows just how important professional restorers are,” he told the Guardian.

“We need to invest in our heritage, but even before we talk about money, we need to make sure that the people who undertake this kind of work have been trained in it.”

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