Spain is in the news again for all the wrong reasons, and conservationists around the globe are shaking their fists. A photo has surfaced of what could be the country’s sloppiest restoration to date: the carving of a once-delicate shepherdess’s face now mangled beyond repair, with lopsided sockets for eyes, an outsize zit for a nose, and a toothless dent for a mouth. Locals in Palencia, north of Madrid, have dubbed her “Potato Head.”
This is déjà vu for Spaniards. Earlier this year, the world gasped when a botched refurbishment of Murillo’s Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables came to light bearing no resemblance to the Baroque original. In 2018, a 16th-century statue of St. George was retouched so badly—evidently by a school teacher in Navarra—that it resembled a toy soldier. And it’s hard to unsee Spain’s most infamous bungle, “Ecce Mono” aka “Monkey Christ,” a 90-year-old fresco of Jesus rendered into a menacing primate-esque blob. The list goes on and on.
The litany of screwups begs the question: Why does this keep happening in Spain, and what is to blame?