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After botched up ‘Monkey Christ’, another Spanish restorer botches up Virgin Mary painting despite two attempts

An anonymous art collector had paid $1,350 to restore the renowned painting of Virgin Mary by Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, but, despite two attempts, the Spanish restorer failed to restore the painting to its original state.

Conservation experts in Spain have called for stricter regulation in the rules for restoration work after a Spanish restorer botched a copy of the famous 17th-century painting Virgin Mary by the Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo beyond recognition during a repair job.

Drawing comparisons to the viral “Monkey Christ” or “Beast Jesus” restoration failure in 2012, this latest attempt by an amateur restorer prompted experts in Spain to call for more stringent regulations.

Spanish restorer distorts face of 17th-century Virgin Mary’s potrait

An anonymous art collector had paid $1,350 to restore the renowned painting of Virgin Mary by Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, but, despite two attempts, the restorer failed to restore the painting to its original state. In fact, The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables, which once showed a cherubic portrait of the Virgin Mary, now features a distorted face of a woman with red lips and crooked eyes.

Bartolome Esteban Murillo’s original (left) and both restoration attempts (right), image via The National

Amateur Spanish restorer turned 120-year-old fresco- “Ecco Home” into “Monkey Christ”

This shady restoration work immediately brought back memories of the infamous “Ecce Homo” fail of 2012 which came to be known as “Beast Jesus” or “Monkey Christ”. The original ‘Ecce Homo’ (Behold The Man) painting was kept in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy church.

In the year 2012, an amateur art restorer, Cecilia Giménez (82) in the small village of Borja, Spain, took it upon herself to restore this 120-year-old fresco painted in 1930 by Elías García Martínez. However, her artwork completely obliterated the face of Jesus, transforming the painting into what locals described more like a beast, hedgehog or monkey than Jesus. 

The original painting Ecce Homo by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez (L), the deteriorated version (M) and the restored “Monkey Christ” version by an elderly woman in Spain (right), image via The National

500-year-old statue of St George in Navarre

In 2018, a 500-year-old statue of St George in Navarre garnered mockery after a restoration transformed the work into a cartoonish figure. The work was done by a local teacher, and the church that commissioned the work, as well as the company responsible, were fined $6,840. The statue was restored back to its original state at an additional cost of $37,000 to the church.

Now, conservation experts in Spain are of the opinion that restoration work should be left to the professionals. Fernando Carrera, a professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage said: “We need to make sure that the people who undertake this kind of work have been trained in it.”

He added, “Can you imagine just anyone being allowed to operate on other people? Or someone being allowed to sell medicine without a pharmacist’s licence? Or someone who’s not an architect being allowed to put up a building?”

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