The potato head of Palencia and other botched restorations in Spain

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Before and after the recent "restoration" of a statue in the northern Spanish city of Palencia. (Courtesy of Antonio Guzmán Capel)
Before and after the recent "restoration" of a statue in the northern Spanish city of Palencia. (Courtesy of Antonio Guzmán Capel)
  • Conservation experts in Spain are calling for the country’s arts and culture sector to have stricter regulations when commissioning restorations.
  • This is following the botched restoration of a statue sitting on the facade of a bank in Palencia. 
  • The vice president of the Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators said that there are many botched restorations in Spain with only a few appearing on social media.


Conservation experts in Spain are calling for the country’s arts and culture sector to have stricter regulations when commissioning restorations because yet another statue has been irrevocably damaged by an inexperienced restorer. 

Sitting on the facade of a high street bank in the north-western city of Palencia, the statue was first unveiled in 1923. Then it depicted a smiling woman floating among a pastoral scene of livestock. Now the once smiling face has been reduced to a melted face with two round cavities for eyes, a deformed dollop approximating a nose and a shallow socket of a mouth. 

The botched restoration was first brought to the public’s attention when artist Antonio Guzmán Capel posted a picture of the statue on Facebook comparing it to cartoon character Mr Potato Head. 

Now referred to as the potato head of Palencia, the statue joins other botched restoration jobs in Spain. In 2012 Elías García Martínez’s Ecce Homo fresco’s restoration resembled a monkey. Earlier this year, a furniture restorer disfigured a copy of Spanish Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s Virgin Mary. There’s also the sculpture of Saint George at the church of Estella. 

Ecce Homo by Elias Garcia before, during and after
Ecce Homo by Elias Garcia before, during and after restoration.
 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s original work (left)
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s original work (left) and two attempts at restoring a copy of it. Photograph: Cedida por Coleccionista/Europa Press 2020
 Composite image of the sculpture of Saint George
Composite image of the sculpture of Saint George at the church of Estella before and after its botched 2018 restoration and after its improved restoration. Photograph: Navarre regional government

Speaking to Spanish newsroom Europa Press, Maria Borjas, the vice president of the Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators said that there are many botched restorations in Spain with only a few appearing on social media. 

In response to this the association said they are now committed to setting up stricter regulations within the restoration industry because Borjas says “Spain's cultural heritage is in a fairly vulnerable situation." 

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