5 botched art restorations that’ll make you laugh

By | December 20, 2022

Art restoration is well… an art. And when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. The latest botched job to make the headlines is a restoration of Piero della Francesca’s Nativity, which has been described by The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones as “a pastiche of Renaissance art by a very cheap, very bad app”. This latest fail attracted all the more ire because it wasn’t done by an inexperienced restorer trying their luck with our how to draw series, but rather brought back to life by the team at Britain’s National Gallery.

The “vacant and gormless, even constipated” new version of a shepherd has not only caused us to chortle into our coffee, but has reminded us of all the other times that art restoration has gone wrong, or in one case, gone so right it feels wrong. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite art restoration fails below for your viewing pleasure.

01. Monkey Christ disaster

Before and after (Image credit: Center de Estudios Borjanos / Cecilia Giménez)

Known as ‘Monkey Christ’, this disastrous restoration happened when 81-year-old Cecilia Giménez took it upon herself to ‘rescue’ a fresco painted in 1930 by Elías García Martínez, which was hanging in her local church. Giménez actually hadn’t finished her restoration job when a local historical association came across her work and brought it to the attention of the world’s media. With Jesus’ face seemingly morphed into a monkey, this was very much the OG botched restoration of the internet age. Much hilarity and memes followed the revelation.

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