The latest Spanish restoration attempt to spark widespread shock and ridicule was once a smiling female figure, carved onto the side of a historic building in Palencia. Now the 20th-century sculpture resembles a Cubist nightmare, horrifying locals and reigniting calls for regulation from Spanish conservators.
Infuriated local painter Antonio Guzmán Capel wrote on Facebook “it’s more like a cartoon head than the artistic head of one of Palencia’s most emblematic buildings.” His post, which shows before and after shots of the statue, went viral overnight for highlighting the dubious conservation efforts.
Built in 1919, the façade of the historic building in question had become weathered over time and so authorities asked an unknown conservator to amend the erosion. Before the bodged restoration, the figure’s head serenely looked down at passersby and pleasantly smiled. It now has a completely smooth face with wonky and simplified features that some critics have compared to a child’s drawing.
Critics have also noted the conserved statue’s resemblance to American President Donald Trump, with one Twitter user noting, “yes, it has happened again. #Palencia already has its own #eccehomo I suspect that the restorer was also pro #Trump and has been carried away by the emotion of these days in the #EleccionesEEUU”
Over the last few years, Spain has witnessed several notoriously bad restoration jobs. Borja’s ‘Ecce Homo’ fresco painting is perhaps the most infamous, having been painted over by untrained church-goer Cecilia Giménez in 2012. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Monkey Christ’ due to its comedically ape-like appearance. A 500-year-old statue of St George in Navarra drew similar criticism after it suffered an amateurish paint job in 2018. Most recently in 2020 a copy of a Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) painting was made unrecognisable by a Spanish furniture restorer.
These incidents have prompted restoration experts in Spain to call for more regulation, which would include greater training, protection and investment. “THIS #IsNotARestoration,” commented Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators on Twitter about the latest controversy. “It’s NOT a professional intervention.”