Spanish church slammed over 'frightening' sculpture restoration

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The St George sculpture before and after restorationImage source, ArtUs Restauración Patrimonio
Image caption,
The St George sculpture before and after the restoration attempt

A lick of paint can do a lot to lift a drab interior, but when it comes to historic sculptures it turns out the job is best left to experts.

That is what a church in Spain discovered after hiring an arts and crafts teacher to freshen up a 16th-Century wooden sculpture of St George.

Images shared on social media showed the warrior with a transformed pink face and bright coloured armour.

Cultural officials have blasted the botched attempt as "frightening".

"We cannot tolerate more attacks on our cultural heritage," Spain's art conservation association (ACRE) said in a statement. "It shows a frightening lack of training of the kind required for this sort of job."

The parish priest in the northern town of Estella simply wanted the sculpture to be cleaned and did not intend for it to be restored, the Efe news agency reports.

But the move has enraged local officials who are demanding to know why they were not informed of the church's plans.

"The council wasn't told and neither was the regional government of Navarre," the town's Mayor Koldo Leoz told The Guardian newspaper.

"They've used plaster and the wrong kind of paint and it's possible that the original layers of paint have been lost. This is an expert job it should have been done by experts," he said.

The group in charge of the project - Karmacolor - reportedly uploaded a video to Facebook showing every stage of the project but later deleted it.

"What a great loss," one Facebook user commented underneath a photograph of the sculpture. "Prison sentences would prevent these attacks on our heritage," another said.

Image source, AFP / Centre de Estudios Borjano
Image caption,
Three images showing the original, deteriorated, and "restored" version of the Ecce Homo fresco

Others compared it to the now infamous attempt to restore the Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) fresco of Jesus Christ in 2012.

Elderly parishioner Cecilia Gimenez took her brush to the 19th-Century artwork following years of deterioration due to moisture, but after much ridicule the result was labelled "Monkey Christ".

Some positives did come from her efforts however, as the town drew thousands more visitors eager to see her "restoration" and she even had her own art exhibited.

Gimenez even starred in a music video for a song she inspired which told the story of her attempt from a more sympathetic angle.