Another Spanish painting gets a disastrously botched restoration

Maybe don't ask a furniture restorer to repaint an image of the Virgin Mary.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

Even in this modern world of Photoshop, CGI and Instagram filters, not just anyone can call themselves an artist. When amateurs try to restore traditional masterpieces, things often go wrong. The latest viral art goof comes from Valencia, Spain, where The Guardian reports that a private art collector had a copy of a painting of the Virgin Mary by the baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo  cleaned -- to disastrous results.

According to The Guardian, the collector hired a furniture restorer for the job -- which clearly may not have been the right choice. Two separate attempts, both photographed for posterity, left the once breathtaking image of Christ's mother looking more like the results of one of those paint-and-sip parties.

"A Spanish collector was horrified after he had his Murillo cleaned and retouched by a 'furniture restorer,'" snarked one Twitter user. "But why would you use one, when you know there are plumbers, dental technicians and forestry workers crying out for this kind of work?"

This isn't the first time someone in Spain has tried to fix a classic artwork and ended up with a very different result. Back in 2012, a Spanish woman named Cecilia Gimenez took it upon herself to repaint a fresco of Christ called "Ecce Homo" ("Behold the Man"). The resulting before-and-after photos went viral, made the town a tourist attraction and created a meme dubbed Potato Jesus

And in 2018 -- also in Spain -- a 16th-century wooden figure of St. George was restored to look more like a blank-faced Nicolas Cage, or maybe Woody from Toy Story.

The BBC notes that there's no law in Spain forbidding people from restoring artwork, and cited a statement from the country's Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators, which called this latest incident an act of "vandalism."

But one Twitter user felt that the classical-turned-cartoony image might be just right for this difficult year, writing, "a botched art restoration in Spain (Immaculate Conception painting by Murillo) feels on par for 2020."