Botched restoration of Spanish sculpture sparks memes and jokes on Twitter


Nov. 13 2020, Updated 8:26 a.m. ET

Spain is quickly becoming known as the place art restorations go to be botched, and this latest sculpture restoration is no exception. Just a few months ago, a painting of the Virgin Mary was ruined in two different restoration attempts. Now, photos of the restoration job on a figurative sculpture on a building in the Spanish city of Palencia is going viral for its, um, frankly terrible execution.

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AP News reports that the sculpture used to depict "the bust of a smiling woman." But now, they write, it "looks more like the head of a cartoon character." Take a look for yourself.

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I mean... Wow. The botched restoration was first reported by a local artist, Antonio Capel, who posted the images to his Facebook after being "tipped off by a florist on his street."

"I was surprised," Capel told AP News. "How could they have done this? This must be at least 10 years old, and we're only finding out now." He said that the tenants of the building fixed the façade several years ago. 

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This botched restoration job is one of several that have made headlines in the past few years. The 2012 "Ecce Homo" fresco restoration from the town Borja, in northern Spain, was really the first to draw widespread attention, but there have been several others since then, also in Spain. 

Borja became a tourist destination after "Monkey Christ" went viral. It remains to be seen whether the same will happen for Palencia. But one thing is certain; the town has made a name for itself on Twitter. People couldn't wait to joke about the truly haunting restoration job. Some even say it resembles Donald Trump.

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Are botched art restorations ruining art history and erasing the work of serious artists? Yes. Are they also apt descriptions for 2020 and surprisingly accurate depictions of how we're all feeling right now? Also yes. 

There's something about them that's kind of endearing. The unnamed person who tried to restore this sculpture to its original glory was probably trying their best, but they just had a really bad go of it. We all know how that feels. We're all trying to get through our days, and sometimes it just works out better than other times. 

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For many, these botched art restorations give them life. A Palencia City Hall spokesperson wasn't able to say when the work happened or who actually did it, but they did say that it would probably be "investigated by regional authorities." 

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We may never know who is responsible for, as journalist Mark Rees called it, "The potato head of Palencia," but I think it's safe to say that whoever it is, they probably need a lesson in perspective. And drawing. And sculpting.

Botched art restoration is nothing new, but these cases never fail to entertain. One one hand, Spain should really regulate who gets to take a stab at restoring classic works of art. On the other hand, or should I say head, when they don't, we get the potato head of Palencia. I'd say that's a win/lose-lose/win if I've ever heard one.


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