Amateur Restoration of Baroque Painting Fails for Second Time

murillo's depiction of the immaculate conception rendered "unrecognizable"

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

A painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo has been poorly restored—again. BBC News reported that the second botched restoration of the Immaculate Conception is just the latest in a line of similar incidents in Spain, including the infamous Monkey Christ painting. The Baroque style was famously used by Rembrandt.

Paint brushes on palette
Art conservation and restoration techniques are used to repair and preserve paintings as the natural effects of aging diminish their original condition. Photo By kvasilev / Shutterstock

According to BBC News, a Baroque restoration intended to fix a lackluster previous restoration still left much to be desired. “An art collector in Spain has been left stunned by the botched restoration of a copy of a painting by Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo,” the article said. “The Valencia-based private collector paid €1,200 ($1,355; £1,087) for it to be cleaned by a furniture restorer. But despite two attempts to fix it, the picture of the Immaculate Conception has been left unrecognizable.”

Some of Rembrandt’s most popular paintings were done in the Baroque art style.

The Visitation, 1640

The Visitation painting by Rembrandt
The Visitation depicts Mary and Elizabeth greeting one another, while pregnant with Jesus and John the Baptist, respectively. Painting by Rembrandt / Wikipedia (Public Domain)

One of Rembrandt’s most striking and breathtaking paintings in the Baroque style is The Visitation, which he painted in 1640. Though dark in color, the piece is rich and warm in tone.

“Mary has arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s house, escorted there by Joseph, who is still coming up the hill with a pack animal,” Professor William Kloss, independent art historian and scholar, said. “The artist has imagined Mary as very young, indeed, so that her contrast with her aged relative is all the stronger. Both are miraculously pregnant—one with the Christ child, the other, who had been barren, with John the Baptist.”

Professor Kloss described the painting as tender and delicately drawn, with an earthy palette brightened by the reds of Elizabeth’s robes.

“[The Visitation is] a large space filled with deep, warm shadows and very small figures picked out by light in the center.”

If It Ain’t Baroque…

Rembrandt Self Portrait 1640
Self-Portrait oil on canvas was painted by Rembrandt in 1660. Painting by Rembrandt / Wikipedia (Public Domain)

Rembrandt painted a large number of self-portraits, and one in particular—signed and dated 1640—places Rembrandt himself in the Baroque style.

“It is one of the best-known of Rembrandt’s self-portraits and one of the most public of them, in the sense that here he seems to proclaim his reputation as Amsteram’s leading artist after a decade of residence there,” Professor Kloss said. “This portrait typifies the magisterial quality in the portrait of Nicolaes Ruts. Rembrandt has given himself the pose and bearing of a Renaissance man, and I mean that literally for he has turned to the Italian Renaissance for his inspiration.”

In fact, Rembrandt’s residence in Amsterdam informs a lot of his technique. Professor Kloss said that in the mid-17th century, the city was the biggest art market in Europe. One particular painting, owned by Rembrandt’s friend Alfonso Lopez, inspired the well-known 1640 Self-Portrait. This other painting, created by the artist Titian in the year 1512, is now known as Portrait of a Man with a Blue Sleeve.

“At a time when portraits were still usually painted in a small format—that is to say, in the early 16th century when the Titian was painted—this was one of the finest solutions for a life-size portrait. That explains the main part of its impact upon Rembrandt.”

Whether inspired by another artist’s work or creating masterpieces paying tribute to Christian theology, Rembrandt remains a world-renowned artist for his visionary style and Baroque works. Hopefully, they’ll avoid falling into the hands of amateur restorers.

Professor William Kloss, M.A.

Professor William Kloss contributed to this article. Professor Kloss is an independent art historian and scholar who lectures and writes about a wide range of European and American art. He was educated at Oberlin College, where he earned a BA in English and an MA in Art History.