Sometimes pieces of art need a little face lift. When something is decades old, it’s bound to pick up some grit and grime over the years, and it’s perfectly reasonable and normal to have pieces cleaned and restored back to their former glory.

Except when things don’t go as planned.

First, The Fresco

In 2018 we all got to experience what possibly became the first world-renowned restoration fail. The Ecce Homo fresco found in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Borja, Spain (painted in the 1930s) was showing signs of age. A local parishioner felt this beautiful piece of art could not be overlooked any longer, and took it upon herself to restore the painting. This was not a good idea.

As you can see, things didn’t quite go as planned. The artist had no ill-intent and was only trying to bring life back into this special piece (also to her credit, she had to stop halfway through and never got to finish it).

A Second Mishap

A few years later, still in Spain, another terrible restoration began making its rounds on the internet. This one was a 17th century painting by artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, the Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables. A private art collector paid a company to clean and restore this beautiful painting, but instead received a severely altered version.

This act lead to discussions about Spanish laws surrounding art restoration and if any regulations could be tightened. There doesn’t appear to have been any headway with that, which leads us to the next, uh, “piece.”

The Potato Of Palencia

The most current historic artistic atrocity (again, from Spain) sits atop a bank in Palencia. What used to be the statue of a smiling young woman in a pastoral scene has now become a potato-faced mess that is beyond repair.

This 1923 statue is forever changed, and has infuriated many artists and true restorers. Maybe this will be the nail-in-the-coffin for Spain to get some control over its world of restoration, and hopefully keep these wonderful pieces out of ill-equipped hands.