when I call someone perfect, it doesn’t mean I think they have no flaws, it doesn’t mean I think they’re the most attractive person on the planet, it doesn’t mean I think they’ve never made any mistakes. when I call someone perfect, it means I love them wholly and entirely despite anything and everything, and that, to me, is perfect.
Portrait of Maria Salviati de’ Medici with Giulia de’ Medici, by Jacopo Pontormo. Italy, c. 1537.
To be honest, the history of art restoration is full of disgraceful erasures, and a lot of the works whose appearance we take for granted are actually the result of restorers messing up really, really badly.
Priceless portraits of Shakespeare were irreversibly “cleaned” of painted changes that were made during Shakespeare’s lifetime to reflect how he looked as he aged. It was also painted over and lightened in portions. There is no way to fix the changes made by modern restorers to these centuries-old images.
Another painting discovered relatively recently, the Tree of Fertility, “somehow” lost its 25 painted penises during the restoration process. The 750-year-old fresco was discovered in 1999, and the restorers just painted over the penises.
Michelangelo’s David was actually coated in wax and stripped with hydrochloric acid, which removed the statue’s original patina, in 1843. Of course, that didn’t stop them from cleaning it again in 2004, resulting in the resignations of several restorers and curators from its housing institution who maintained that under no circumstances should it be cleaned again.
So, yeah. You can probably imagine how many images have been altered in the centuries between when the paintings were made, and us viewing them now. So, to answer your question, if people are willing to just paint OVER mixed-race children, Shakespeare’s face, and a tree full of penises, pretty sure that obscuring and/or lightening European paintings of people of color has happened and may well continue to happen.