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Masterpieces Gone Wrong: Hilarious Art Restoration Fails
From botched paint jobs to "creative" reinterpretations, the world of art restoration has seen its f...
Art Stuff 25 Jul 2023

Art restoration is a delicate and noble practice, dedicated to preserving the beauty and integrity of our artistic heritage. However, every so often, these well-intentioned endeavors go hilariously awry, transforming priceless masterpieces into unintentional comedy pieces. From botched paint jobs to “creative” reinterpretations, the world of art restoration has seen its fair share of eyebrow-raising mishaps. In this article, we take a light-hearted and amusing look at some of the most unforgettable art restoration fails that have left art enthusiasts scratching their heads and stifling laughter.

The original painting of Ecco Homo by painter Elias Garcia Martinez and its transformation. (Centro de estudios Borjanos)

The “Ecco Homo” Fiasco

No list of art restoration fails would be complete without mentioning the infamous “Ecco Homo” restoration incident. In 2012, an elderly woman, Cecilia Giménez, took it upon herself to restore a fading fresco of Jesus Christ in her local church in Spain. The result? A hilariously unrecognizable “restoration” that drew comparisons to a cartoon character. The “Monkey Christ” quickly went viral, attracting both ridicule and fascination from around the world.

St. George
The sculpture of St. George before and after ArtUs Restauración Patrimonio

The “Beast Jesus” Resurrection

Another Spanish church, another disastrous art restoration attempt. This time, it was a 16th-century wooden sculpture of Saint George on horseback that was subjected to a makeover gone wrong. In 2018, a local craftsman decided to restore the deteriorating statue, but instead of reviving the saint, the artist transformed him into what became known as “Beast Jesus.” The altered face and wonky eyes led to a restoration failure that sparked numerous jokes and memes.

The original, from a copy of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s work, and two attempts. Courtesy of CEDIDA / EUROPA PRESS.
The original, from a copy of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s work, and two restoration attempts. Courtesy of CEDIDA / EUROPA PRESS.

Cecilia Giménez Strikes Again

Yes, our dear friend Cecilia Giménez makes a second appearance on this list. This time, she “blessed” a copy of a famous Baroque painting, “The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables,” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Unfortunately, her efforts turned the Virgin Mary into an unrecognizable and unsettling figure that has become an amusing cautionary tale in the world of art restoration.

The exterior of an ornate office building in the city of Palencia, Spain
The exterior of an ornate office building in the city of Palencia, Spain
AP

The “Potato Head” Mary

When a 15th-century wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary needed some TLC, the restoration attempt turned comical. The restorer applied a fresh coat of paint to the statue’s face, but the end result made the Virgin Mary look more like a cartoonish potato with a wide grin than the serene figure that once stood there.

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