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17th Century Painting Of Virgin Mary Ruined In Disastrous Restoration By Furniture Repairman
View of the deteriorated version of "Ecce Homo" by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, at the Borja Church in Zaragoza on August 28, 2012. An elderly woman's catastrophic attempt to "restore" a century-old oil painting of Christ in a Spanish church has provoked popular uproar, and amusement. Titled "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man), the original was no masterpiece, painted in two hours in 1910 by a certain Elias Garcia Martinez directly on a column in the church at Borja, northeastern Spain. The well-intentioned but ham-fisted amateur artist, in her 80s, took it upon herself to fill in the patches and paint over the original work, which depicted Christ crowned with thorns, his sorrowful gaze lifted to heaven. AFP PHOTO / CESAR MANSO (Photo credit should read

A private art collector in Spain wanted to have a copy of a painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo called “The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables restored and repaired.

So, of course, he turned to a furniture repairman, whom he paid about $1,000 for the job, The Sun reported.

You’ll be shocked to hear that it didn’t work out too well.

The face of the Virgin Mary — originally a wonderfully illuminated young woman with pink cheeks — was left severely disfigured. And a second restoration made the problem even worse.

The butchery was reminiscent of another artwork rendered unrecognizable by restoration, “Ecce Homo,” painted by Elias Garcia Martinez. Eight years ago, a devout parishioner attempted to restore a painting of the scourged Christ on the wall of a church near the Spanish town of Borja. That didn’t go well, either.

The “restoration” of Ecce Homo exploded on social media, prompting the priest of the church, Father Florencio Garces, to say the fresco should be covered up. But now the painting is a tourist draw; it brought about 40,000 visitors to the church in 2013.

Art professionals say more must be done to protect the works of famed artists.

“Fernando Carrera, a professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, says such cases highlight the need for work to be carried out only by properly trained restorers, The Irish Times reported. “‘I don’t think this guy -– or these people -– should be referred to as restorers,’ he said. “’Let’s be honest: they’re bodgers who botch things up. They destroy things.'”

Carrera, a former president of Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators [ACRE], says the law currently allows people to engage in restoration projects even if they lack the necessary skills. “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?”

While restorers were “far less important than doctors”, he adds, the sector still needs to be strictly regulated for the sake of Spain’s cultural history. “We see this kind of thing time and time again, and yet it keeps on happening. Paradoxically, it shows just how important professional restorers are. 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.”

María Borja, an ACRE vice president, also said incidents such as the Murillo mishap were “unfortunately far more common than you might think.” Speaking to Europa Press, which broke the news of the Murillo repair, Borja added: “We only find out about them when people report them to the press or on social media, but there are numerous situations when works are undertaken by people who aren’t trained.”

Poor restoration, Borja said, means “artworks suffer and the damage can be irreversible.”

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