You all right, Spain? In what is most certainly a contender for worst art restoration project, a 500-year-old wooden effigy of San Jorge de Estella in the Spanish city of Estella-Lizarra has been, uh, restored by a “handicrafts teacher,” according to the Guardian. The end result isn’t a pretty sight, and has left some people more than upset, myself included.
The 500-year-old wooden effigy of San Jorge de Estella stands in the Chapel of San Jorge, located in the Church of San Miguel. San Jorge himself is clad in armor and mounted on a horse, trampling a dragon. The statue can only be seen during hours of worship. The restoration itself, commissioned by one of the parish’s priests, was done by Karmacolor, a school in the nearby town of Navarra. The school has since removed its Facebook page, which previously contained images and videos showcasing the restoration in progress, according to ArtUs.
San Jorge de Estella’s new look completely erases the subtle features of the original (like the rosy cheeks and lips, and the shading and wear of the armour). His restored face addresses the admittedly faded shading and colouring, but makes San Jorge look more like a Moral Orel character instead of a knight in conflict with a giant mythical creature. In addition, aspects of the sculpture were recoloured, like the red harness which was originally silver with gold leaf, according to art restoration expert Carmen Usua, who spoke to Spanish newspaper ABC. Usua suggested that a proper re-restoration could be impossible, because the wood was sanded incorrectly and the plaster work was subpar.
Spain, judging from this and past catastrophes alone, it would seem like art restoration isn’t exactly your bag. Remember Elias Garcia Martinez’s 18th century Ecce Homo fresco in Borja, Spain? You’re probably more familiar with its Ecce Mono designation after its botched restoration. You also had that 2016 disaster involving the statue of Saint Michael the Archangel from the 17th century. Ouch.
Like the Ecce Mono, San Jorge de Estella was reportedly restored in the absence of discussion with cultural institutions or restoration experts. The Association of Conservators and Restauradores of Spain (ACRE) has denounced the restoration project, and says it will bring the issue to the Prosecutor’s Office of Navarra to determine the scope of the damages and see that a penalty is imposed in the form of a fine for the destruction of property with cultural and historical value.
To be fair, it’s hard to be too mad at someone who made a good faith effort to restore priceless cultural artefacts. It could be worse, you know? Imagine if they broke it.