King Tut's Glue Scandal Has Us Reminiscing About Other Art Fails
Last year I attempted to use superglue to fix a split heel on one of my shoes in the bathroom at my office, and ended up supergluing two of my fingers together. I tried to keep that in mind when I heard about the botched restoration of a funerary mask of King Tutankhamun that left yellowed epoxy glue seeping out of Tut’s beard. Restoration is hard, and sometimes glue is pretty messy but, then again, my shoes were $60—not a priceless mask that’s over 3,300 years old.
The iconic braided beard was hastily repaired during an October cleaning of the mask when the piece was either snapped off, or just removed because it was loose. What happened next can only be described as the trainwreck nightmare equivalent of tripping and falling into a 17th century oil painting. Protocol at the museum requires that the Ministry of Antiquities be informed of any damage to artifacts so a specialist can come in for repairs. The employees went all “they tried to make me go to a specialist and I said no no no” and decided to launch the ultimate DIY project. The head of the renovations team, Elham Abdelrahman, called her husband in to fix it and, like most stories of men trying to fix things, this one ended in tragic idiocy. Not only did he leave household epoxy glue dripping out of the sides, he also left it dripping onto the face, which required an actual spatula to scrape off. That worked as well as you can imagine, and now the mask is irreversibly damaged.
To celebrate the fact that we’ve never fucked up that badly on something (yet), we’re looking back on all of the most horrifyingly botched art restorations we’ve ever seen.
The Third Coming of Jesus the Blob Man
If there is any image that would be seared into the minds of art lovers across the world, it’s the Potato Jesus “restoration” of Elias Garcia Martinez’s “Ecce Homo” fresco. Disaster struck that particular piece when 83-year-old Cecilia Gimenez attempted to restore the famed painting to its former glory and ended up making it look like an out-of-focus horror monster. Luckily, some good came out of the botched restoration. Not only did it prompt a boom in tourism, but also all royalties earned by Gimenez have gone to a charity for muscular dystrophy (which is what her son suffers from). See? Sometimes there’s a silver lining to even the most awful restorations.
The da Vinci Dip That Ruined a Classic
Despite a happy ending for the potato Jesus travesty, the same can’t be said for a Leonardo da Vinci sketch depicting Orpheus being attacked by the Furies. The piece was valued at millions, but was ruined completely during an attempted restoration. An attempt to loosen the work from its backing with water and alcohol caused a chemical reaction that made the ink disappear. It was irreversible and prompted a harsh backlash from critics. Professor Carlo Federici, part-time director of the Central Institute for Book Pathology and full-time shade queen, said, “Even a beginner knows that the first thing you have to do is to test inks for their solubility.” He was reportedly heard snapping his fingers and sashaying away in tears to mourn the loss of the timeless da Vinci sketch.
The Great Veronese Nose Job Scandal
To round out—no, sorry—square out? We’re just as confused as the team tasked with restoring renowned painter Veronese’s “Supper at Emmaus.” Over the years as the leading lady in the painting aged, retouching experts insisted on a little nip and tuck to keep her looking spry for suitors. Not one but two different botched nose jobs resulted in a complete transformation of the nose and mouth. The poor woman has lost her distinctive nose tip, had her nostrils widened, and had her lips swell to Kylie Jenner levels. Speaking of, Michel Favre-Félix, president of the Association for the Respect and Integrity of Artistic Heritage (Aripa) in Paris, condemned the painting’s cosmetic surgery by targeting the youth:
“Veronese had pictured a noble family mother, as an echo to the Virgin Mary, and it has been turned into a caricature of a 21st-century adolescent, with bloated cheeks and a ridiculous pout.”
Duckface, pout, and blow those cheeks out. You may be the next inspo for a restoration gone wrong.
Stay tuned to Milk for more fun botched art restoration stories.
Images via ArtNet and Gawker.