The task of restorers is to revive dilapidated and damaged works of art. This work is creative but not at all simple: one wrong move and the masterpiece is ruined. Unfortunately, mistakes are inevitable.
We at WeGoRo have collected some sensational cases where restoration went wrong.
The most sensational case of an unsuccessful restoration occurred in Spain. 80-year-old Cecilia Jimenez volunteered to restore the mural with the image of Jesus in a local cathedral. But for some reason, it did not look like the original at all. Perhaps the elderly woman’s eyesight failed her.
You can argue endlessly whether Cecilia is to blame or not. On the one hand, the fresco was spoiled. On the other, the cathedral became known worldwide, and Cecilia is now called the new Goya.
Restoration of frescoes in the Sistine Chapel was the most extensive restoration work of the twentieth century. But many art critics believe it was unsuccessful.
When the masters were clearing the soot, they touched the top layer of the frescoes — those with corrections by Michelangelo himself. As a result, some of the characters even lost their eyes.
In 2010, workers installed statues of Mars and Venus (circa 175 AD) in front of the residence of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The statues had been found with missing body parts.
Berlusconi ordered them to be restored. It turned out okay, but art critics did not appreciate the Prime Minister’s impulse. It is believed that remodeling monuments however one pleases is akin to vandalism because we do not know how the figures looked originally. After this criticism, Mars and Venus were returned to their initial state.
The Virgin and Child with St. Anne by Leonardo da Vinci was restored and came out much lighter. If earlier it was cloudy dark shades that prevailed, now the painting is dominated by bright colors, as if the action takes place on a sunny day. According to experts, this is contrary to da Vinci’s vision.
Some experts of the Louvre Committee even quit their jobs in protest against such a restoration. But is the work of restorers really so bad?
Every city in Russia has a Lenin statue. But the one in Krasnodar Krai was unlucky. After the restoration, it acquired a disproportionately long hand and someone else’s face.
It turns out the monument had such a look for a long time, but the photos did not circulate until 2016. The story even appeared on central television, after which the leader of the world proletariat got a makeover.
The Great Wall of China is the largest architectural monument on Earth, and, unfortunately, it is also slowly decaying.
Several years ago, restorers unsuccessfully reconstructed one of the most beautiful sections of the 780-meter-long wall, simply covering it with a layer of concrete.
The case is currently being investigated, and the rest of the wall will be restored more carefully.
The reconstruction of the ancient fortress of Matrera in Spain was very controversial: the tower began to look too modern. It turned out that the restorer, Carlos Quevado, wanted to make it clear which parts of the fortress are new and which ones are ancient.
By the way, Architizer, an authoritative community of architects, took the side of Quevado. But the locals still weren’t happy.
In 2014, an employee of the Cairo Museum dropped a 30-pound (10 kg) golden mask of Tutankhamun, and the beard broke off from the relic. Instead of going to the professionals, the woman turned to her husband, a restorer.
He stuck the beard back on with superglue. What’s more, he chose the wrong angle. At the same time, he stained Tutankhamun’s chin with glue and decided to scrape it off, making scratches. Fortunately, the mask has recently been restored properly.
The sculpture of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in Sudbury, Canada, once suffered at the hands of vandals: the baby’s head was chipped off and stolen.
Artist Heather Wise volunteered to make a new head, but the result of her work looked more than strange and provoked discontent among the locals.
But in the end, Heather’s actions played a positive role: the man who stole the real head got embarrassed and brought it back. The sculpture was restored.
It is worth noting that cases of unsuccessful art restoration are rare. Countless works of masters of the past have survived to today thanks to the painstaking work of restorers. One of the good examples is this sculpture of an angel on St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Preview photo credit Elías García Martínez/Cecilia Giménez