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“Restored” Painting of Christ in Spain – “Behold, the Monkey!”


Isn’t there a movie or skit of Mr. Bean cleaning and then retouching a painting?! I never thought we’d see the real deal. Last week as this story leaked out onto the international news networks, I began having people mention this “news item” to me. When the number inquiring what I thought grew to 9, I began keeping a tally. The number of people that have now contacted me regarding my thoughts on this story is 31!

This seems like a funny news item to “go international.” I mean, the image of the “art restoration” is an attention getter but… you should know that this type of thing happens ALL THE TIME!

Actually there are two parts of the discussion I’ve been privy to: the international layman’s discussion in the news and a private discussion among other professional art conservators on the net. My point of view is that I can’t believe this merits anyone’s time or attention.

In case you’ve missed what we’re talking about, here’s the before and after photo of a painting restoration job in Spain of an Old Master painting of Christ where an old woman “restored” the flaking picture belonging to a church.

Behold the monkey

Some people have re-titled the restored painting

“Behold, the Monkey!”

As I said before, this isn’t such an uncommon thing and something horrific usually happens when do-it-your-selfers start restoring historical items (there are standards, guidelines, ethics to follow). For example, I was conducting a tour of my lab and was demonstrating how I use the stereobinocular microscope to get a very close/accurate look when I test the dissolving power of solvents for cleaning a painting. One of the attendees looked at the bottle of solvent I was utilizing, and asked if that was what I would use to clean the picture. I said no because it would damage the original paint I was testing. A couple of days later, this man comes back to the lab with a gorgeous $35,000 picture he had tried to clean with the solvent I was testing in the lab. He had ruined the painting by dissolving off the original paint. I irritatingly told him what he had done to this wonderful work of art and its monetary value. He got mad at me and said it was MY FAULT cause I had not taught him how to properly do it! He never lets anybody fix his stuff cause he does everything himself. I kicked him out of my lab… the only person in my life that has ever been “escorted out” of my lab.

Here’s another example of an inept “restoration” that is in my lab right now.  The face on the right is original and the face on the left has been previously repainted for the purpose of “restoration.” While its better than a monkey face, it still is a laugh:

Restoration is not repainting original artwork

There is a funny side to the story of “Behold the Monkey”: the church is getting more visitors than ever and they may consider it has more value in its present repainted “look.”  Here’s the video link. I’ve never seen so much attention given to conservation before in such an amusing way…

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nbcnews.com/48803079


So, this item is becoming valuable as what??  A sideshow attraction??  The professional art conservation field has gone hyper-sensitive at this thought!  If the public starts looking at bad restoration as an art form, it could begin a shock wave of reckless vandalism… the end of civilization as we know it!!!!!!

“Can this ruined work of art be recouped?” Fair question. Well, yes but the price for proper, safe art conservation treatments has just sky rocketed; The sad fact we see often is that about 80% of the items that come into our lab have been goofed with in the not too distant past… and some of them come directly from the “restorer” to be fixed by our lab... on the same day! In this case we charge, of course, for the time and effort to take off any previous bungled restorations. You pay for other’s sins (in keeping with the message of this bugled restoration of the painting of Christ).

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About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at http://www.fineartconservationlab.com/testimonials/
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31 Responses to “Restored” Painting of Christ in Spain – “Behold, the Monkey!”

  1. Matt Lacy says:

    That is very sad to see, I guess the person who did it was just trying to help

  2. Jual Jaket Kulit Murah says:

    The church should be ashamed of itself for not taking pride in valuables. Shame on them.

  3. Ben King says:

    This is very unfortunate. As an artist I hate to see work as good as this used to be. Destroyed in a sense. It’s a piece of history that will never go back to the way it was.

  4. So, this item is becoming valuable as what?? A sideshow attraction?? The professional art conservation
    best regards
    Sepatu Marelli

  5. Jade says:

    It’s just best they leaved it alone

  6. Scott M. Haskins says:

    I know that this type of restoration is exactly the type and quality of work that Belfor avoids when they are helping to respond to a disaster. Thanks for leaving a note. We like working with Belfor. We feel honored that you trust us and consider us your experts.

  7. I saw a mention of this on the Internet, but I thought it was someone who had tried to paint it and failed miserably. I’m laughing/crying that this is real.

  8. It is very difficult to restore the historical things like painting, jewelry, arms etc. I like this blog lots because you mention lots of valuable stuff in your article which is very interesting about restoration. We do restoration after floods and fires and you’ve touched on info that is hard for us to deal with. In fact, we almost always sub contract this work out to a specialist.

  9. Cindy Sepatu says:

    What a crazy story and horrible thing to happen to a nice painting….

  10. Hans says:

    If I was the church I would be mortified, shame on them.

  11. Don says:

    Scott, great article and great insights but sad to read about this.

  12. Rhonda says:

    I am speechless

  13. T. Kris says:

    I am in shock. How can the church be so negligent?

  14. Frank says:

    Horrifying indeed. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Scott.

  15. Tom says:

    My respect for the church just went south

  16. Daniela says:

    I actually would have more faith in Mr. Bean restoring my precious art after reading this! Shame shame.

  17. Mandy Tess says:

    Wow just shows how little the church really cares

  18. Casey says:

    Not surprising. By the way Scott, I am a big fan of your writing.

  19. Dawn says:

    Thanks for letting people know about this Scott. That is inexcusable.

  20. KJ says:

    This is very hypocritical of the church to be so indifferent like this.

  21. Ian says:

    The scary thing is that Mr. Bean probably does a better job in restoring than many others do. Disappointed to hear this about the church as well.

  22. Nick says:

    That makes me doubt the church even more. How it can not care about its precious valuables is beyond me.

  23. Rob says:

    Inexcusable on the church’s part. Thanks for shedding the light on us about this.

  24. Ben says:

    This is absolutely horrific that the church would not care. Wow. I am honestly speechless.

  25. Jake says:

    You know I have to say, hearing this kind of thing does not surprise me. I am glad you are there to care enough to write about this. There is never an excuse for the church to not care about these sacred paintings.

  26. Amber says:

    That is sad how the church would be so negligent. Thanks for bringing this out.

  27. Yvette says:

    The church should be ashamed of itself for not taking pride in valuables. Shame on them.

  28. Meg says:

    That is shocking that the church would not take care of their artwork and would not look into who restores it properly. I am glad you discussed this because the church should care more about restoring artwork than it sounds like it does 🙁

  29. Jack says:

    It is sad to see that most churches really don’t care who restores their paintings and thanks for bringing this out Scott. I find everything you write to be of excellent value.

  30. Katja Davidson says:

    It is sad that it happens often, we just never hear about it, so it was surprising to me to see it. I thought churches would only hire professionals to restore their artwork. I guess I am a bit naive. 🙂

  31. Christopher McAfee says:

    Great insights, Scott. Thanks.

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